Be Acid Aware

When is the best time to brush teeth?

You may be surprised to learn that the best time is just before a meal or snack.

This is because if the bacteria are eliminated from your teeth before eating a meal, there are no bacteria present to convert sugars in the food into acid that will dissolve your teeth.

Acid in your mouth is neutralised by your saliva. On average it takes 20-30 minutes to neutralise the acid from a meal, snack or sip of drink. Each mouthful counts as one acid exposure. To calculate how long your teeth are dissolving, add up the times between each mouthful or sip if less than 20 minutes, then add on a further 20 minutes after the last mouthful or sip. This total is the time your teeth have been dissolving for. So while you are sipping fruit juice or a man made drink, be aware your teeth are in an acid bath for quite some time and are being damaged not only during the time the drink is in your mouth.

Fruit – a healthy snack?

Be aware of hidden acids and sugars in fresh fruit, dried fruit and fruit juices that will damage teeth if consumed too frequently. In fact anything with a sharp, sour or bitter taste is likely to contain acid and therefore damaging to your teeth.  Your taste buds will tell you this.

Is there a bad time to brush teeth?

Yes. The worst time is to brush within 20-30 minutes of consuming a meal or snack or drinking sugary or acid containing drink. The acid from the meal or drink has dissolved and softened the outer surface of your teeth – brushing the softened surface actually abrades and removes this softened part, increasing the damage done to your teeth.

Surprised? As we all enjoy acidic drinks like juices, wine, fizzy drinks from time to time, consider the following to minimise damage:

  • Avoid repeated sipping, down the drink in as few mouthfuls as possible.
  • Chill the drink – less acid is available (chemistry).
  • Drink through a straw so the liquid does not touch your teeth.
  • Don’t drink out of cans – acid is concentrated on your top front teeth which dissolves them faster.
  • Fact – artificial sweeteners are “stickier” than sugar, causing acids in man made drinks to adhere to teeth for longer resulting in more damage. Beware of drinks labelled “diet”, “low sugar”, or “no added sugar”.
  • Read the small print on man made drinks – culprit chemicals to avoid are phosphoric acid and citric acid. Sugars will be labelled ending in – ose, for example glucose, sucrose and fructose.
  • Fact – most man made drinks contain at least 2 acids to maintain the sharp taste – a double dissolving of your teeth.
  • Enjoy fruit and juice with a meal – avoid repeated nibbles and sips in-between meals.
  • Calcium in milk products helps neutralise fruit acid – 2 tablespoons of natural yogurt contains enough calcium to neutralise the acid in a bowl of fruit.
  • Raw vegetables like celery, sweet peppers, carrots, cucumber will not dissolve teeth if they are nibbled in between meals and are also healthy for the rest of your body.