Do You Really Need To Brush Your Teeth After Every Meal?

It never fails. You go out for a nice lunch or a great dinner. The food is delicious and everything is going great. But by the time you leave the restaurant, you're ready to rinse the taste of the food out of your mouth. And that goes double if you've got a meeting or a date. So naturally, you'll want to slip off to the bathroom and brush your teeth real quick, right?

Depending on what you ate, the answer might just be no. According to Mouth Healthy, a website run by the American Dental Association, you don't want to brush your teeth after eating acidic foods. These include natural acids found in citrus and coffee or artificially acidic foods like carbonated drinks and processed sugar. Acidic food temporarily weakens the enamel of your teeth after being consumed and brushing before this reaction stops could permanently damage tooth enamel.

The ADA suggests waiting at least 60 minutes after a meal before reaching for a toothbrush. This leaves plenty of time for the acidic reactions to stop and your enamel to recover. The ADA also recommends a softer brush — unless stiff bristles are recommended by your dentist — to further prevent enamel damage.

Important keys for dental health

Waiting an hour to brush after meals might not be possible for some people. An hour after your meal you might be in a meeting or in traffic. And while there are options for those who have to brush on the go, most people would probably prefer a little more privacy while brushing their teeth.

The American Dental Association has good news there too: You only need to brush twice a day. So you can brush once after breakfast and once before bed without damaging the health of your pearly whites. As long as you wait 60 minutes after any meal to brush and you brush at least twice a day, the timing is up to you.

If you're worried about your dental health, the American Dental has another important suggestion: Floss at least once a day. A 2016 CDC report found only 31.5 percent of Americans floss every day and nearly a third don't floss at all. And this is a pretty big problem for dental health since flossing cleans between teeth, where toothbrushes cannot go.

You can brush after every meal if you want to. Just be sure and wait at least an hour before brushing and to brush for a solid two minutes. As long as you take care with your enamel, brush at least twice a day, and try to floss once a day you'll hit all the marks to keep your teeth happy and healthy.