Should You Brush Your Teeth After Throwing Up?

Your teeth are probably not foremost on your mind when you throw up. However, you may reach for your toothbrush quickly to try to change the taste in your mouth. But should you brush your teeth after throwing up? Continue reading to learn more.

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Tooth Enamel

One of your dentist’s primary goals is protecting and preserving your enamel. Enamel serves these critical purposes:

  • Aesthetics. The color, thickness, and shape of your enamel contribute significantly to your overall appearance, especially when you speak or smile.

  • Function. Enamel’s hardness allows you to comfortably eat hard foods such as nuts on your back teeth and incise apples on your front teeth.

  • Insulation. Enamel protects the nerve of your tooth by preventing the feeling of hot and cold from foods and drinks.

  • Protection. Enamel is the outer protective barrier against harm from bacteria. Without enamel, teeth are highly susceptible to tooth decay.

How Acids Harm Tooth Enamel

The body’s mineralized structures are bone, cartilage, and tooth enamel. Enamel differs from bone and cartilage because it contains no living cells and, therefore, has no potential to form new enamel. Therefore, if you chip a tooth, it can not form a new tooth structure to replace what chipped. 

Enamel, however, is not suddenly lost only when you bump your tooth. Bacteria in dental plaque feed on sugars consumed in foods and drinks to form acids. These acids demineralize enamel by dissolving minerals such as calcium and phosphorus. A similar process known as tooth erosion damages enamel but requires no bacteria. Erosion harms your enamel directly through the acidity, or low pH, of foods and beverages you consume. There is also another, lesser known, source of acid that can demineralize teeth.

The Effect of Throwing Up on Your Teeth

There are many causes of throwing up, such as bacteria in food, spinning too fast, or viruses. When you throw up, contents in your stomach are forced into your mouth instead of progressing through the digestive system. The contents of what you throw up contain the highly acidic hydrochloric acid that helps break down foods for digestion. The effects of stomach acids in your mouth cause the same harm as bacteria from dental plaque or consuming acidic foods such as soft drinks.

Should You Brush After Throwing Up?

Most people quickly brush their teeth after throwing up. Dentists, however, recommend you refrain from brushing for about thirty minutes. Instead of removing acids, you spread them over more tooth surfaces when you brush them at once. You also risk more enamel removal by the mechanical forces of brushing when your teeth are most vulnerable to the effects of acidity.

What To Do After Throwing Up

Instead of brushing, the American Dental Association recommends you rinse your mouth with a mixture of water and one teaspoon of baking soda to rinse away the acid. The baking soda solution quickly raises the pH in your mouth and helps prevent demineralization. After rinsing, spit out the solution and brush your teeth thirty minutes later.

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