Watch CBS News

3 times you shouldn't brush your teeth, according to dental experts

New research shows that many have been brushing their teeth all wrong
New research shows that many have been brushing their teeth all wrong 01:48

Brushing your teeth is good for you, right? Well, not all the time. According to experts, there are a few instances where you want to avoid brushing your teeth in order to protect the enamel.

TikTok user @drshaadimanouchehri, a London-based dentist, raised eyebrows for posting about this in December, garnering over 12 million views on her video that advised people not to brush after breakfast or eating sweets, or even after vomiting. Experts CBS News spoke with echoed her recommendations. 

"If possible, you should avoid brushing immediately after meals in general — not just breakfast," says Dr. Jossen Gastelum, an Arizona-based general dentist known as @doctorjossen on social media. 

Why? Eating or drinking — or vomiting — can change the pH or acidity level of your mouth to a dangerous state at which enamel starts to deteriorate, he explains. 

"Our saliva has natural buffering abilities to help withstand these acid attacks, but it usually takes about 30 minutes to do so," Gastelum adds. "Brushing before then has the potential to brush acids into your teeth only further accelerating the deterioration and damage of the enamel."

Registered dental hygienist Whitney DiFoggio also suggests avoiding brushing after consuming any highly acidic foods or drinks, including items such as citrus fruits, soda and wine. 

How damaging is it?

If you've already brushed after any of these activities, you'll be OK — just don't make it a regular habit, Gastelum says.

"A one-time offense, honestly, probably won't do serious long-term damage," he says. But he warns: "The cumulative effect of these acid attacks combined with brushing immediately after is a recipe for disaster. The worst part is that once the enamel is thin or gone, the second layer of the tooth, the dentin, is even more delicate and will quickly deteriorate at an even faster state."

While the idea of not brushing immediately after vomiting may be unappealing, DiFoggio suggests that for those who may deal with it more regularly due to morning sickness or acid reflux, for example, "it's better to adopt safer practices moving forward to protect your enamel."

What can you do instead of brushing?

Here are a few expert-approved alternatives to try:

Wait 30 to 60 minutes: "For all these situations, it's generally recommended to wait about 30 to 60 minutes before brushing your teeth," DiFoggio says. "This waiting period allows your saliva to help neutralize the acids and begin the process of enamel remineralization."

Wash with water: "To help further protect from these acid attacks on your enamel, you can swish with normal tap water immediately after these activities," Gastelum says, though he adds it "does not usually do much for the bad breath or taste associated with these activities — which is why people feel the urge to brush immediately after in the first place."

Rinse with moutwash: "Swishing with a non-acidic, alcohol-free mouthwash is another option that can help without drying out the mouth or exacerbating acid exposure," DiFoggio suggests. "For after vomiting, rinsing with a mixture of water and baking soda can help neutralize the acidic levels in the mouth, as well."

For after meals, Gastelum recommends an alkaline/pH-neutral rinse.

"It really helps to effectively buffer out the acids while still freshening your breath as well," he says. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.