Statistics reveal some startling truths about teeth-brushing in the United States. 1% may be a small number, but to think that one out of every hundred individuals never brushes their teeth is a shocking thing. Over 10% do not brush every day. Thankfully, about 30% brush once daily, with another 10% averaging 1.5 times per day. And almost 38% brush their teeth twice every day. And about 8% may have cleaner mouths than the rest of us, brushing three or four times per day or more.
The American Dental Association supports the practice of brushing your teeth after every meal. They state that brushing twice per day should be the minimum and that brushing after eating can help keep plaque at bay. Plaque is a sticky film on teeth that is caused by the bacteria that grow in the mouth and latch onto food particles as you eat.
If left for long enough unchecked, plaque creates a feeding and growing ground for bacteria that can eat into the teeth causing cavities (dental caries) and disease of the gums (periodontitis). While twice per day is a good rule of thumb for brushing your teeth, certain foods should also be followed by brushing as they are potentially more damaging than others.
Sugary foods like candy, pastries, sodas, and other sweet treats are prime culprits of cavities. And starchy foods are just as bad, because starch is instantly convertible into sugar. Examples of starchy foods are white potatoes, white rice, white bread, and other processed flour-based foods like crackers. These foods can be taken by the bacteria and used for instant energy for growth, just like sugar can.
Brushing your teeth after eating starchy or sugary foods is a recommended practice. Eating vegetables, legumes, complex carbohydrates like whole grains can all help prevent cavities, on top of all the other health benefits they can offer. But when consuming acidic foods like citrus and acidic drinks, it is recommended that you wait 30 minutes before brushing as acid can affect the integrity of the enamel on teeth and brushing right after can be abrasive on the softened enamel. But most of the time, brushing in the morning and before bed, and chewing sugarless gum once or twice through the day is sufficient to maintain healthy gums and teeth.