In the morning, many of us have developed habits that are hard to break. The rush and bustle of starting another day mean that our rituals are all the more important to keep. Coffee drinkers often want to get to their favorite liquid stimulant ASAP.
But brushing your teeth is just as central to morning routines as that first cup of coffee. Should we brush our teeth before or after coffee consumption? The answer turns out to be quite clear. In this article, we’re going to run down all the info you’ll need to have a solid background on the topic of coffee and tooth brushing.
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The Short Answer
There’s no need to give any introductions: let’s start with the basic answer. When brushing your teeth and drinking coffee, dental experts agree that we should brush our teeth before coffee to maintain good oral health. That news might disappoint some of us who cherish the taste and flavor of coffee.
Have you ever brushed your teeth and then had a big cup of orange juice at breakfast? The orange juice flavor is almost entirely gone, replaced by the minty chemical taste of the toothpaste. Yuck. The same phenomenon happens with coffee.
Predictably, some coffee drinkers are not very happy with the dental experts.
It might seem like the reverse order (coffee then brushing) is preferable. After all, we’re all aware of the acid damage and stains that coffee can leave on our teeth. Wouldn’t it be better to brush after coffee?
It turns out, no.
And here’s why.
What Happens When You Brush Your Teeth?
Every time we brush our pearly whites, the bristles ideally scrape away any surface stains and food particles on the enamel coating of our teeth. It smooths the irregular surface of the outer layer of the tooth structure, making it harder for foods and liquids to cling to the teeth and damage them.
When we consume highly acidic, pickled, hard to chew, or staining food, we reduce permanent damage over time by brushing our teeth before eating or drinking.
Why? Brushing your teeth creates a smooth, impenetrable surface which is difficult for acids and coffee stains to attack. If we drink our beloved drink before brushing, the coffee clings directly to the unbrushed tooth surface. The tooth surface is full of abrasions, bumps, and fissures, which coffee can easily stain.
It’s the acids in coffee that cause the erosion of tooth enamel (the tooth’s rigid outer coating). When you brush your teeth, the bristles create small micro-abrasions as they scrub the tooth surface. Imagine what would happen if coffee covers your teeth, and then you brush. The acids would have a direct route to penetrate deeper into the enamel with every brush.
What About Taste And Flavor?
We learned about how important it is to brush first. But you might think that the morning coffee flavor that we crave will disappear if you brush first. While brushing your teeth does leave the mouth fresh and crisp, that taste doesn’t pair well with coffee.
There are a few easy tips to follow if you want to reduce the clashing tastes of coffee and toothpaste.
- Allow at least 30 minutes to pass after drinking coffee before brushing (if you insist on brushing after). Your saliva production will raise the pH in your mouth by then, neutralizing the acidic environment, and acid stains won’t occur.
- Floss, rinse your mouth with water and use sugar-free gum–especially if you still brush after coffee.
- Use a straw for your coffee intake. Believe it or not, you can drink hot coffee with a straw, rare as it is. Drinking through a straw will reduce the contact between coffee and enamel.
- Resist sipping. Try to take whole mouthfuls of your favorite drink–sipping can result in more staining.
Why Not Brush Your Teeth After Coffee?
When you brush after enjoying your morning cup, you essentially scrub the coffee (and all its acids and staining properties) directly into the enamel. The coffee acids themselves make the enamel on your teeth more vulnerable to staining.
Of course, we all make mistakes (especially in the mornings) with our dental hygiene. According to practicing dentists, one or two accidental brushings after coffee won’t hurt you. Only when you develop a daily habit of brushing after coffee do you risk long-term damage and tooth decay.
Whether you brush your teeth before or after coffee can make a big difference in your dental health. The unanimous opinion of dentists today is that you should brush before you drink to maintain healthy teeth. You’ll improve the surface and strength of the enamel so that coffee acids don’t cling as well. And several expert tips will help with flavor and taste.
It can be hard to change our habits, but it’s always good to have a clear direction to go: brush first, coffee second.