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Should You Rinse Before or After Brushing Your Teeth?

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If you brush before doing this one simple thing, you might actually be harming your teeth more than you realize.

Ever since you were old enough to stand in front of the bathroom mirror, you’ve been taught just how important it is to brush your teeth. If you’re serious about your dental hygiene, you’ve perhaps even studied up on the best angle to hold your toothbrush while brushing (a 45-degree angle!), and you almost always brush for two whole minutes.

That said, those who try to epitomize perfect dental health often get one major thing wrong when it comes to brushing — and it’s something that can take a serious toll on our enamel: we aren’t rinsing our mouths with water before brushing our teeth, after consuming acidic foods. And acidic doesn’t just mean a vinaigrette — there are many foods and beverages that qualify. Dr. Lana Rozenberg, a cosmetic dentist based in NYC, has the 411 on why we should all be rinsing.

Why Rinsing Before Brushing Is So Important

It seems harmless — even like a good thing — to brush your teeth after eating. However, if you consumed anything acidic beforehand, you’re actually doing more harm than good.

“Acid attacks the teeth, eroding enamel and the layer below it called dentin,” explains Dr. Rozenberg. “Brushing after consuming sugary or acidic snacks or drinks abrades your tooth structure. A soft enamel due to acids will wear out easily when brushing, but people forget that, and they try to brush away the food particles immediately after they have eaten.”

Examples of acidic drinks include wine, mineral water, and sports drinks. Foods higher in acidity include meats, certain fruits like blueberries and raspberries, grains, dairy, and any item with a high sugar content. Even if you’re dedicated to a healthy diet, it’s pretty hard to avoid all acidic food and drinks, making it all the more important to rinse before brushing, and to find a toothpaste that helps protect enamel.

Ways To Prevent Tooth Damage

“Rinsing the mouth with water before brushing will help keep the damaging acids and sugars away from your teeth,” says Dr. Rozenberg. She recommends taking a swig of water and swishing it around for a little bit before swallowing (or spitting it out). Then, wait about a half hour before grabbing your toothbrush.

“During this time, the acids will be diluted and washed away by the saliva and the water you take after a meal,” she says.

Restoring Enamel Strength

If you’re guilty of this mistake (don’t worry; you’re not alone) — or if you simply want to take extra precautions to ensure your enamel is strong and healthy — you’ve got options. First, start following the above advice pronto. Second, invest in a toothpaste that works specifically to strengthen your teeth.

Pronamel is the No. 1 dentist-recommended brand for both strengthening and protecting your enamel, when used twice a day. It works by first rehardening your enamel and then doubles down by protecting it against the effects of acidic erosion, specifically. It’s also available in a gentle whitening option, if you want a kilowatt smile, so you look and feel your best.

Bottom line: we often take our teeth for granted, forgetting to brush as often as we should or not remembering to rinse after consuming acidic foods and beverages. However, the tiny daily investment that we make in proper dental care comes with a seriously positive payoff.