3 times when it's better NOT to brush your teeth

20 March 2018 - 14:00 By Eleanor Steafel
The worst time to brush your teeth is immediately after drinking or eating anything acidic.
The worst time to brush your teeth is immediately after drinking or eating anything acidic.
Image: 123RF/andreypopov

Did you know that the older you get, the harder tooth decay is to reverse? Worse still, experts now believe that poor dental hygiene can lead to a whole host of seemingly unconnected mid-life diseases, including pancreatic cancer.

As fully functioning adults, keeping our teeth clean was one area we imagined we had covered. Taught as children, brushing our teeth is a ritual we all perform twice a day without question – so how wrong can we be getting it?

Apparently there are some instances when by brushing your teeth you could be doing more damage than good. Here are three such occasions, plus what you should be doing to protect your pearly whites instead:


Last month a new health study suggested red wine could be beneficial to oral health, reducing the ability of plaque-causing bacteria to stick to the teeth and gums. Researchers found compounds from the drink, known as polyphenols, helped fend off harmful bacteria in the mouth. But before you start rinsing with Pinot Noir, bear in mind that the acidic nature of wine means it can damage the enamel.

Which is why the one occasion you should not brush your teeth before going to bed is after a spot of heavy carousing.

With that horrible furry feeling still on your teeth, dentist Toby Edwards-Lunn explains that, rather than reaching for the toothbrush,  swill a little mouthwash and then brush in the morning. Otherwise you could be doing more damage than good – especially if your alcoholic drink of choice was fizzy.

“If you have been on the Prosecco, or spirits with a cola mixer, the surface of your teeth is going to have been been softened by the drink’s acidity. This is not the time to be brushing that softened enamel, as you risk causing permanent damage. If you want to freshen up before going to bed, this is one of the few times mouthwash is of any use at all.”


The time of day when you choose to brush is crucial. It should be the last thing you do before you go to sleep, but you should never, Edwards-Lunn says, wash your mouth out after brushing. Spit …  and go to bed.

“That way, [the toothpaste] stays on your teeth as you hit the pillow. It’ll be in your mouth for around 20 minutes, really doing some good, remineralising your teeth.”

Then, in the morning, resist the temptation to wait until after breakfast to brush your teeth – do it as soon as you wake up. “You’ll have less plaque after brushing your teeth, which means fewer cavity-forming bugs. That way, when you sit down for breakfast, the risk of decay is lower.”


The worst time to brush your teeth is immediately after drinking or eating anything acidic.

Instead of picking up a toothbrush, it’s better to neutralise the acidity a different way: drink or eat something which contains a high level of calcium and phosphate, such as cheese or a glass of milk, as they will help to reverse the damage being done to the outer surfaces of the teeth.

“Chewing sugar-free gum will also help by encouraging your mouth to generate more saliva, which in turn will start to neutralise the acidity in your mouth,” says Edwards-Lunn. - The Daily Telegraph

March 20 2018 is World Oral Health Day.

• This is an extract of an article published on Times Select. Read the full article for more tips on how to properly care for your teeth.