Is it ever a smart choice to not brush our teeth?
As each of us continues on our path to balance our oral flora and heal the disconnect with our mouths, we eventually come to question many of the common oral health myths in our culture.
One of the most prevalent oral health myths is ‘all plaque is bad’.
After all, we’re taught that plaque is what causes tooth decay, right? That’s why we brush and floss our teeth, to remove plaque, right?
While it’s true that mature plaque colonies are common breeding grounds for disease causing microbes, to take the ‘scorched earth’ policy and try to eliminate all microbes from the mouth is not only impossible, it’s downright unhealthy.
Our thinking around why we brush and floss isn’t to get rid of plaque, but to manage the level of maturity of these naturally occurring colonies. Like we discussed in ‘Can some plaques actually help our teeth stay healthy?’, the job of conscious oral hygiene is to be a good steward of our oral flora, our oral micro biome, and keep the plaque formations from maturing and becoming problematic.
So in today’s article, let’s take a look at three times when it may be wiser to not brush your teeth.
When it’s better to wait to brush…
1. Before you have a meal with acidic foods/drinks
Like we mentioned above, having plaque on our teeth isn’t inherently bad. It really depends on how mature the plaque colonies have been allowed to become.
Within minutes after brushing our teeth, our healthy oral micro biome re-establishes the pellicle on our teeth. The pellicle is the initial layer of plaque that covers our teeth.
This healthy layer protects our teeth from ‘outside’ influences that could compromise our oral health.
When we eat or drink something acidic, the acids challenge the enamel on our teeth.
In this way, it really doesn’t matter if we think we are ‘doing well’ by eating an organic salad with a vinegar based salad dressing and drinking a kombucha or eating lemon drop candies and drinking a Pepsi. Any acids compromise our enamel which over time can spell trouble.
So, one time we avoid brushing our teeth is right before eating or drinking anything acidic. One of the jobs a healthy oral flora provides is to buffer the impact of acids on our teeth. The plaques literally form a film on our teeth and provide a buffer zone from acids having direct contact with our enamel. Unless of course, we just brushed the protective plaque film from our teeth.
So, our suggestion is to avoid brushing right before a meal to allow the protective film a healthy oral flora provides to be present to offer the buffering protection for our teeth from the acid challenge of a meal.
2. Immediately after a meal
Like we explored in our article, ‘Can brushing after a meal damage my teeth?’, due to the same acids in foods and drinks in a meal, it’s also wise to delay brushing after a meal for at least 20 minutes.
This allows for what is called ‘oral clearance’ which is the job of our saliva to remove food debris, normalize the pH in our mouths again and re-establish a healthy balance in the oral flora.
Since even with a healthy plaque film on our teeth to protect them, our enamel still gets exposed to acids and the outer most layer of our teeth is ‘softened’ by the acid exposure.
So, brushing immediately after a meal can risk brushing away the softened enamel more easily than if we wait to brush after a meal for 20-30 minutes for oral clearance to complete and pH to normalize again.
So what can we do to better support oral clearance after a meal?
We have found the best after-a-meal habit is to swish a sip of water around our mouth for 10-20 seconds then swallow.
This quick rinse off with fresh, room temp water after a meal helps to remove any food debris from between teeth along with neutralize any acids still in the mouth and restore a healthy balance to our oral flora.
3. The absolute worst time to brush your teeth
Given all this, the worst time for us to brush our teeth is right after vomiting.
The extremely strong stomach acids can really compromise our enamel (which is why so many with eating disorders end up with such challenging oral health issues later in life).
So, even though you’ll be highly tempted to brush immediately (we get it :), it’s really best to just swish and spit with plain water a few times.
If you want to help improve the taste in your mouth and normalize pH faster, try putting a couple drops of HealThy Mouth Blend into a sip of water to swish. Plus, the mints in the healthy mouth blend will provide an extra benefit by helping to settle an upset stomach.
Main takeaway gems…
- Avoid brushing before eating or drinking anything acidic. Keep the natural buffer protection a healthy plaque layer provides if you know you’re going to be putting anything acidic in your mouth.
- Avoid brushing immediately after a meal, particularly when you consume something acidic. The outer enamel is challenged and softened from the acid exposure and brushing when the enamel is soft can risk removing enamel from your teeth.
- Swish with plain, room temp water after eating or drinking to help rebalance the healthy pH in the mouth.
- Never brush after vomiting. The very strong stomach acids really stress enamel. Swish and spit several time with plain water to normalize pH in the mouth.
We hope this article helps put into perspective that while brushing our teeth is generally a very health giving habit, we have to approach brushing consciously. There are times when brushing isn’t the best option if we really want to maximize our oral health.
Please consider sharing this article with those you love if you know someone who could benefit from these insights.
Thank you for helping us help others along their path to optimal oral health.
Helpful, Related Resources:
How to balance your oral flora [article]
Can some plaques actually help our teeth stay healthy? [article]
Can brushing after a meal damage my teeth? [article]