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The Great Debate: Should you brush your teeth before or after breakfast

14th October 2020

It’s the ‘chicken or the egg’ equivalent of the oral health world – should you brush your teeth before or after eating breakfast? This one puzzles many people, is debated by the masses and often divides a room with their differing opinions – ok perhaps that’s only us!

Let’s look at some of the argument for brushing after breakfast…

Brushing is usually the final thing I do before I leave the house, otherwise I can taste my breakfast all morning”

“I don’t want to have food stuck in my mouth all day, so I brush after eating breakfast”


The ‘brush after breakfast’ debaters focus on removing food as their main reason for brushing their teeth. Yes, though removing food is important, after all no one wants to have bits of avocado in their teeth in a morning meeting, however the main reason for brushing your teeth is to remove plaque.

Plaque is a sticky white film that forms on your teeth that contains millions of bacteria. When we eat, the bacteria in the plaque use the sugars from the food to produce acids that will eat away at the tooth enamel.


Unsurprisingly, it turns out the order you eat and brush your teeth in can have a serious impact on your health. With that in mind, now let’s look at the argument for brushing teeth before breakfast…

There’s two main reasons why it’s advisable to brush before breakfast:

1. Plaque builds as we sleep

When you’re asleep, your mouth is inactive and produces less saliva. Therefore, lots of bacteria are multiplying and attaching themselves to your teeth. By going downstairs and having breakfast and a cup of coffee, you’re feeding those bacteria sugars which forms an acid and attacks and destroys your tooth’s enamel.

If you are thinking, I know how to solve that. I’ll just brush my teeth straight away after I’ve had my breakfast. Think again…

2. The change of acid levels in your mouth

A breakfast high in sugars and acids, e.g. sugary cereal, orange juice etc can change the pH level in your mouth which weakens the tooth enamel. Brushing straight after you eat can result in you scraping off the softened enamel letting the acid go even deeper into the teeth. The fluoride toothpaste also gives an extra protective layer against this acid attack if you have brushed before breakfast. However, if you wait until after, then the acids are in full force and the teeth are at their weakest.

I understand the science but would still rather brush my teeth after, as it fits my routine better. What can I do to?

If you aren’t convinced and still want to brush your teeth after breakfast, wait at least 30 minutes before doing so, if you’re not rushing out of the door that is! After half an hour, the pH levels in your mouth are returned to normal and your teeth are restored enough to handle brushing.

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