Should you brush your teeth before or after breakfast?

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Who doesn’t know it? The morning routine: the alarm clock rings, get up, shower, brush your teeth and then have breakfast to start the day with total energy. Or would you rather eat breakfast first and then brush your teeth? Which is better for the health of your teeth?

A few rules for effective teeth cleaning are probably known to most people, such as brushing your teeth with fluoride toothpaste for at least two minutes. For fresh breath, it’s best to do it right before breakfast. Or is that not the case? To this day, the opinions of dentists and scientists differ in this regard. Because both variants, under the influence of different conditions, can have beneficial and detrimental results on the health of the teeth. So what applies: brush your teeth before or after breakfast?

According to statistics from Deutscher Zahnärzte Verlag on oral hygiene habits and knowledge in Germany, about 42 percent of respondents brush their teeth before and 51 percent after breakfast.1 Thus, the result seems quite balanced, reflecting the ambiguity in this question. Moreover, the statistics support the assumption that brushing teeth after breakfast is generally considered healthier (or at least more pleasant).

Food leftovers after breakfast – a hotbed for caries

After breakfast, some food leftovers are in the oral cavity, which can become a danger of caries. In particular, the increased intake of carbohydrates can increase the risk of feeding the bacteria in the dental plaque. In this process, dental plaque – also known as plaque or biofilm – breaks down the carbohydrates in the form of plaque acids, thus removing essential minerals from the tooth enamel. This is also referred to as demineralization. Thus, an essential component is lost, which is supposed to ensure a robust tooth surface.

Acid can attack tooth enamel.
So should you quickly reach for the toothbrush after breakfast to remove food residues and preserve the valuable minerals? Better not! Immediately after eating, teeth are subject to acid attack, not only from plaque acids but also from acidic beverages, such as orange juice, which is part of breakfast for many. The enamel is attacked by the acids and thus softens somewhat. If you then want to brush your teeth straight away, you rub the sensitive enamel and consequently damage the tooth substance more than it protects the teeth.

Wait 30 minutes after breakfast.
It is recommended to wait at least 30 minutes before reaching for the toothbrush after breakfast. This allows the enamel to regenerate, and the valuable building blocks, such as calcium and phosphate, return to the tooth. This is known as remineralization. However, brushing your teeth before breakfast is recommended if you do not have time to wait this early in the morning. This will at least allow the mineral toothpaste to strengthen the tooth before the acid is added.

Sources
1 Zimmer, S., Lieding, L. (2014). Oral hygiene habits and knowledge in Germany – results of a population-representative survey. Deutsche Zahnärtze Zeitschrift. (accessed 09/15/2022).
2 Aattin, T. (2010). Erosions: when teeth get sour. The free dentist.

  1. Brushing teeth- before or after breakfast? (accessed 9/13/2022).
  2. fitbook.de
  3. picture: Bild von Jenny Friedrichs auf Pixabay
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