A quick internet search will pull up thousands of sites that tell you to “brush after meals.” But if you ask a dental hygienist this question you’ll get a different answer.
When you brush your teeth, you help remove food and plaque — a sticky white film that forms on your teeth and contains bacteria. After you eat a meal or snack that contains sugar, the bacteria in plaque produce acids that attack tooth enamel. Repeated attacks can break down tooth enamel and lead to cavities. Plaque that isn’t removed can also harden into tartar, making it harder to keep teeth clean.
In choosing when to brush your teeth, you might also consider your diet. If you’ve eaten an acidic food or drink, avoid brushing your teeth right away. These acids weaken tooth enamel, and brushing too soon can remove enamel. If you know you’re going to eat or drink something acidic, like orange juice for breakfast, brush your teeth beforehand.