It’s perhaps one of the most debatable topics in dental hygiene: which is the best time for brushing teeth, before or after breakfast? What makes this particularly interesting is that both seem to make sense. Before-breakfast brushing gets rid of that nasty stink and bacteria build-up that happened overnight. But then after-breakfast cleaning also removes the food residue that could cause those dreaded cavities. So, which exactly is the right time for better oral care? Does this mean doing both, to be sure? Or would that be too much of a good thing?

The Real Deal

The simple fact is, there’s no ‘ideal’ time for morning toothbrushing. It’s all up to you. If you’re not comfortable with the thought of nighttime bacteria staying in your mouth and ruining your meals, then stick to your pre-breakfast cleaning routine. But if you prefer having that clean feel after eating, then go ahead with the after-breakfast brush. When you choose to go in before meals, one crucial thing you should never forget and neglect is the tongue. If you notice, there’s always a white coating in that surface in the morning. Those can be dead cells or food debris, or a combination of both. They build up when there’s not enough saliva in the mouth, which is in the case when you’re asleep. Brush your tongue with a soft-bristled tool or a tongue scraper. You can also use a teaspoon turned over to remove that white coating of bacteria.

In case you’re the after-breakfast brusher, the most important thing you should take note is the timing. If you had a plate full of citric food, like oranges, lemons, and grapefruits, wait at least an hour before cleaning. According to practitioners from a dental clinic in Townsville, when you consume highly acidic food, your teeth are at its weakest state. Scrubbing them in this condition will make them even more vulnerable to damage because it will strip away the protective layer of the tooth, the enamel. If you really would need to clean your pearly whites or at least have that fresh feeling, you can rinse your mouth or chew some sugarless gum.

Beyond the ‘When’

man brushing his teeth

While the ‘when’ in morning tooth brushing doesn’t matter that much as long as you’re comfortable with the routine, the ‘how long’ is a different story. It’s essential to stick to the dentists’ rule of 2-minute duration. Or two rounds of the Happy Birthday song. This may feel like a dreadfully long period for such a simple hygiene step, but if you would consider all the surfaces you need to cover and ensure that they’re thoroughly cleaned, two minutes is just enough of a time. If you’re serious about this habit, you may even take longer than this magic number.

According to a study, the duration of toothbrushing translates to better removal of bacteria in the mouth. For instance, those who brushed for 3 minutes got rid of 55% more plaque than those who did it for only 30 seconds. Those who spent 2 minutes were able to eliminate 26% more plaque than those who just went in for 45 seconds.

The Great Debate

When it comes to brushing before or after morning meals, go with whatever floats your boat. But do take note of the right technique, timing, and of course, duration.