We get asked this question a lot: I brush my teeth twice a day, so why do I still get cavities?
The answer to this question is different for everyone. There are some things you should first understand that can help answer the question in a general way.
The first thing we need to understand is how are cavities formed. Our teeth are made up of minerals. When you eat or drink sugary and starchy foods, the bacteria that is in the plaque on your teeth begin to produce acid. The acid then eats away at the enamel on your teeth.
It takes about 30-60 minutes after eating or drinking for the pH in your mouth to become less acidic and return to normal. If you don’t give your mouth enough time to recover the pH, and you eat or drink something else high in sugars or starch, the process starts all over again and acid continues to form from the plaque on your teeth.
Think about this: if you drink a soda in 10 minutes it is much better for your teeth than sipping it over the course of an hour. Your mouth will only be exposed to the acidic beverage for 10 minutes rather than repeatedly for 60 minutes. The sooner your teeth can start the re-mineralizing process, the better.
How Do Your Teeth Re-mineralize?
Saliva is a huge help in keeping our teeth protected. It acts as a natural barrier from harmful particles, and it helps flush them out. The same minerals that are found in our teeth are also found in saliva, so after you eat, saliva helps add calcium and phosphate back onto our teeth.
However, sometimes this natural process is not enough, and this is where fluoride comes in. By using toothpaste that contains fluoride or drinking tap water with fluoride, those helpful properties embed themselves in your saliva and help protect your teeth.
When is the Best Time to Brush Your Teeth?
While we are sleeping, plaque-causing bacteria are multiplying in our mouths. Brushing your teeth first thing in the morning can be very beneficial to help remove this plaque and bacteria. Also, brushing your teeth first thing in the morning helps introduce fluoride into your mouth before you eat your first meal of the day.
If you are one of those people who like to brush after a meal (which is not a bad thing), be sure to wait at least 30 minutes before brushing. If you brush immediately after you finish a meal, you risk removing those helpful minerals in your saliva. If you need a rinse immediately after eating, try drinking water or chewing sugarless gum, this can help increase saliva flow so that it can do its job in keeping your teeth healthy.
Brushing your teeth before heading to bed at night is also ideal. This can limit any prolonged acid exposure while you sleep. In general, it is important to brush twice a day to help remove the harmful bacteria and particles from your mouth. You can elevate your daily oral routine by brushing first thing when you wake up, and the last thing before you go to sleep.