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From the time that we were little children, we were told things on a daily basis that would help us to stay healthy. They might include eating your vegetables, getting some exercise, or perhaps going to bed at bedtime. Something else that we may have heard is the benefit of brushing your teeth after every meal. Many of us may even have picked up the habit, but is it one you should keep?

Something interesting happens when you eat a meal. There is a thin film that forms on the teeth as a result of plaque. The bacteria in the plaque can cause damage to the enamel of the teeth because it loves the sugar in the food that you just ate. It happens immediately after you eat for at least 20 minutes so if you don’t brush your teeth right after you eat, the acid can break down the enamel and cavities may form.

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If the plaque is allowed to stay on your teeth for longer amounts of time, it may eventually harden and build up in the form of tartar on your gums. This can lead to inflammation and possibly even gum disease.

At this point, most people are probably nodding their heads, realizing that their mothers were telling them the truth all along. According to the Mayo Clinic, however, you might want to be cautious, depending upon the type of food that you eat. Foods that contain citric acid, such as lemons or grapefruit, can weaken the enamel on your teeth, so if you brush right away, you may actually be brushing away the enamel!

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The American dental Association takes things a step further and lets you know what to do if you feel the urge to brush your teeth immediately after eating food. They suggest that you wait 60 minutes to allow the natural processes in your mouth to do their work. Your mouth constantly produces saliva, and it washes away food particles and helps the inside of your mouth to return to a good pH level. Drinking some water or chewing sugarless gum may help to speed along the process.

Now that we know you don’t have to brush your teeth after every meal, should you just wait until you go to bed to brush? Actually, that’s a good idea. As long as you are brushing your teeth between the time that you eat your last meal and when you go to bed, it should keep the plaque from building up and decaying the tooth enamel.

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In the end, you have to decide if you will brush your teeth after every meal or if you will wait till bedtime. The most important part of the process, however, is to brush your teeth regularly and to do so effectively. Doing so will help your teeth to stay intact for a very long time.

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