Should I brush my teeth before breakfast? Dentists reveal what you need to change about your morning routine

Many people wonder if they should brush their teeth before breakfast. Here, two dentists reveal the truth

Woman wearing towel on her head after getting out of the shower, brushing teeth and looking at phone in bedroom to find out should I brush my teeth before breakfast
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Should I brush my teeth before breakfast? It's a question many of us have asked before when posed with the choice between brushing as soon as we wake up in the morning or after the first meal. 

Many people believe that the answer is brushing after breakfast. After all, what is the point of brushing your teeth if not to brush away the plaque-producing leftover food that's found its way in between the teeth? It makes sense, sure. But here, two dentists explain to woman&home why this isn't the case and reveal what else you could change about your daily habits for better oral hygiene. 

So whether you're looking to get the most out of your pick of the best whitening toothpaste or you want to know how often you should brush your teeth, here's what you need to know to start your day the right way where oral hygiene is concerned. 

Should I brush my teeth before breakfast?

Yes, dentists agree that you should brush your teeth before breakfast. "It makes sense to brush your teeth before breakfast as you will have a build-up of natural acid in your mouth immediately after you’ve eaten and run the risk of damaging the enamel if you brush then," says Dr Kunal Patel, a dentist with over ten years experience in the industry. 

It's an approach that fellow dentist, Dr Anjum Maryam Jahan, agrees with. "If you are brushing immediately after you have eaten, you are effectively brushing the acid onto your teeth which can erode your enamel."

When it comes to protecting our teeth, enamel should be a number one priority. As it's the protecting coating on our teeth, wearing it away means that we're more susceptible to sensitive teeth and damage to the tooth underneath, known as dentin. This gives our pearly whites their color and prevents us from having yellow teeth naturally, so it's important to keep this intact too. 

While research on brushing before breakfast versus after breakfast is extremely limited, a study by the University of Zürich supports does support this idea as well. After looking at teeth exposed to acidic challenges, they found that enamel and dentin (tooth beneath the enamel) wear was significantly lower when teeth were brushed before the participants were exposed.  

However, some people will naturally prefer to clean their teeth after they've eaten in the morning. Aside from this study, there's little evidence to suggest that brushing after breakfast will have a real detrimental impact on your oral hygiene. But if that's you, Dr Jahan has some advice: "You should wait at least 30 minutes after you have eaten prior to brushing to prevent this damage to the enamel," she says. 

Woman brushing teeth before breakfast over sink in bathroom

(Image credit: Getty Images)

When should I floss? 

Flossing at the end of the day after you've finished eating and drinking is best, Dr Jahan says. "That should be enough time to ensure that there are no food particles lodged between your teeth overnight and so no need to floss again in the morning." 

Many people forget to floss entirely though and, further down the line, this can lead to serious oral health and hygiene issues like inflamed gums and gum disease. Brushing your teeth and flossing should go hand in hand, says Dr Patel, who is also the clinical director and owner of Love Teeth Dental, says, and everyone should know how to floss properly if they don't already. "It is advisable to floss daily as brushing alone does not keep all surfaces of your teeth clean," he explains. "Flossing cleans in between teeth where often bristles of brushes can’t reach." 

Do I need to brush my teeth between meals? 

We only need to brush our teeth twice every day, says Dr Patel. "It’s not necessary to brush your teeth between meals but if you feel like refreshing your mouth during these times, simply rinse out your mouth with water." 

In fact, brushing your teeth between meals could be doing more harm than good. "Brushing your teeth twice daily is sufficient as any more than that and again, you could end up damaging the enamel," he says. As well as making it potentially painful to consume cold or hot drinks and food, and harder to whiten teeth at home, brushing too often can lead to longer-term issues such as tender or receding gums and gingivitis, a type of gum disease. 

Grace Walsh
Health Channel Editor

Grace Walsh is woman&home's Health Channel Editor, working across the areas of fitness, nutrition, sleep, mental health, relationships, and sex. She is also a qualified fitness instructor. In 2024, she will be taking on her second marathon in Rome, cycling from Manchester to London (350km) for charity, and qualifying as a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach. 

A digital journalist with over six years experience as a writer and editor for UK publications, Grace has covered (almost) everything in the world of health and wellbeing with bylines in Cosmopolitan, Red, The i Paper, GoodtoKnow, and more.