Recent research from the University of Adelaide in South Australia on tooth erosion shows that the old advice to “brush your teeth right after a meal” is not correct after all. In fact, I recommend that my patients to wait to brush for at least one and a half to two hours after eating because exposure to acidic foods or drinks softens the enamel and damages your teeth.

When your teeth soften and wear away it is called tooth, or enamel, erosion. There are many different foods and beverages that we consume today that create an acidic environment in the mouth. Brushing your teeth immediately after consuming these acidic foods and drinks actually causes enamel erosion and damages to teeth.

Let me explain!  Many of the foods we eat are slightly acidic and that means that they actually dissolve the external layer of the tooth – slightly. You can see an extreme example of that if you bite into a lemon. Immediately after biting into the fruit you notice that the teeth feel rough. What is that roughness? The answer is, it is the exposed protein matrix that supports the crystals of the enamel sticking out from the etched surface of the outer part of the tooth that makes it feel rough. Two hours later how does it feel? Smooth. The saliva in your mouth is a super saturated solution of calcium salts. It actually reconstitutes the external layer of the tooth. If you eat something that’s acidic and you immediately go and brush your teeth you damage the protein matrix and interfere with the reconstitution or recrystallization of the outermost part of the tooth. If you brush vigorously immediately after every meal, slowly but surely, you’ll be damaging your teeth. So that is why I advise my patients about tooth erosion and tell them, “Don’t rush to brush!”

Soda drinkers, juice sippers and food grazers should also be warned: prolonged exposure to acids in the mouth leads to faster tooth wear. When acidic drinks or sugary beverages are sipped throughout the day or acidic foods are eaten throughout the day instead of consumed at a meal, the environment inside the mouth remains acidic and the softened tooth enamel doesn’t have a chance to re-harden in between meals. Tooth wear and erosion can also cause sensitivity. Carbonated beverages (regular, diet and carbonated water), citrus, wine, fruit juice, sports drinks, green apples and pickles are all commonly eaten acidic foods that could potentially cause tooth erosion.

Previously published in “Small Business Trendsetters”