How Long After Fluoride Treatment Can I Eat?

How Long After Fluoride Treatment Can I Eat?

 Whitney DiFoggio MA, RDH
Written by Whitney DiFoggio MA, RDH
Medical Reviewed on Oct 17, 2023
byDr. Matthew Hannan DDS
🔬 Evidence Based
How Long After Fluoride Treatment Can I Eat?

Fluoride is a natural mineral that is known for helping strengthen teeth, ward off cavities, and reduce tooth sensitivity. Most often, you’ll have a fluoride treatment applied after your professional dental cleaning. This helps remineralize your enamel to make it more resistant to acids and bacteria. Which begs the age-old question, “How long after fluoride can I eat or drink something?” 

If you remember as kids, most of us had to wait at least 30 minutes before eating or drinking anything after our dental checkups. That wasn’t because of your teeth being cleaned; it was because of the fluoride that your dentist or hygienist applied after the oral health exam.

Why Do We Have To Wait After Fluoride?

Essentially, fluoride needs time to “soak” into the tiny tubules (pores) of your tooth enamel. If you were to eat or drink something right after your fluoride is applied, it reduces its efficacy or wipes it off of your tooth altogether. You want to get the most out of your treatment, so it’s important to allow the varnish or gel to rest on your teeth for a good half an hour.

The longer the fluoride is able to sit there on your teeth, the better results you’ll see for remineralization and anti-sensitivity purposes. Based on the types of professional fluoride treatment your dentist or hygienist is using, a half hour is the ideal length of time to allow the fluoride to go undisturbed. 

Eating or drinking right after your fluoride application will physically flush off or wipe away the gel that’s on your teeth. Even with stickier varnish textures, fluoride needs to be left alone for a little while. 

What Are Professional Fluoride Treatments?

Fluoride treatments essentially help remineralize weak points across your tooth enamel. Maybe you have areas of acid erosion or demineralization, where cavities are trying to form. Applying the fluoride helps put minerals back into the tooth so that it’s more resistant to the everyday bacteria and prevent tooth decay between checkups.

You might be thinking, “I don’t need a fluoride treatment at my dentist’s office. I get fluoride from my toothpaste or a fluoride rinse instead.” While that’s true, the concentration of fluoride used by your dentist is far stronger or “potent” than you will get from anything over the counter. For people with gum recession, sensitive teeth, or a high risk of cavities, a professional treatment makes a world of difference. 

If you get your teeth cleaned twice a year, adding a fluoride treatment is total worth it. If fluoride is so important, why doesn’t dental insurance cover it? Well, that’s another topic for another day, but when you think about the $30-45 you’re paying for a treatment, it’s worth the investment instead of getting a cavity there later.  

Related: How to Save Up to 60% on Dental Care

Post Fluoride Treatment Rules & Tips

Since you only get a professional fluoride treatment twice a year, you want to make the most of it. It’s important to follow your dentist or hygienist’s instructions, as different types of gels or varnish may impact how long after fluoride you can eat. It might be 30 minutes, others an hour, or some only 5 minutes. The type of formula, fluoride used, and manufacturer’s instructions need to be followed to get the most “bang for your buck.” Remember, you’re doing this so that you don’t get cavities! When you look at it that way, waiting a half hour to eat or drink after fluoride isn’t the end of the world. 

1. Wait 30 Minutes To Eat

How long after fluoride can I eat? Technically, about 30 minutes. In all honesty, by the time you get your fluoride, check out of the dentist’s office, get back to your car, and drive through somewhere to grab lunch, it will have already been a half hour at the very least. If you’ve lost track of time since you wrapped up your cleaning and exam, but you’re already seated in a restaurant or back at your kitchen table, you’re probably in the clear. 

2. Don't Drink Coffee (And Skip Other Hot Drinks)

We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you’re going to need to wait a little extra longer before you drink anything hot. So no, that extra cup of coffee is not going to be an option. Nor is your pumpkin spice latte or your hot green tea. (iced or hot) How long will you need to wait to drink hot or cold liquids? Get ready…at least six hours. I’m sorry! Don’t shoot the messenger!

3. Avoid Acidic Foods 

Think lemons, tomato soup, sodas, and sports drinks. Acids are naturally erosive, so they’ll irritate your teeth and might even make your mouth sensitive right after a cleaning and fluoride treatment. Just like hot temperatures, you have to worry about acidic ingredients counteracting the fluoride that’s still trying to seep into your enamel. Stick to water for the next several hours, just to be on the safe side! And as far as alcohol goes—including mouthwash—treat it like your coffee and wait at least six hours.

4. Avoid Sticky Foods 

When you sit down to eat your first meal after a fluoride treatment, try to avoid anything that’s too sticky. Snacks or desserts with caramel, and sugary beverages for example. Instead, opt for softer textures that aren’t going to push, pull, or stick to your teeth. Like yogurt, baked or mashed potatoes, eggs, smoothies, etc. While you certainly don’t have to only eat soft foods, anything that’s hard, cold foods, or crunchy can also have a similar effect as sticky textures, since they’ll physically rub the fluoride off your teeth.

5. Wait To Brush And Floss 

You won’t hear me say this often, but you’ll need to wait more than 30 minutes before you brush or floss your teeth. Which can be annoying if you’re bothered by the sticky texture of a fluoride varnish. Let’s be honest, brushing and flossing is meant to remove stuff from your teeth. That’s why you’re going to get a pass: wait at least six hours after a fluoride treatment before you brush or floss your teeth. If you’re going crazy because you ate between now and then, just rinse your mouth with water to get rid of the larger pieces of leftover food debris. But if it were me, I wouldn’t use my water flosser either for at least half the day. 

How Long Does Fluoride Stay On Your Teeth?

Fluoride minerals soak into the tubules/pores of your teeth. Some of the minerals stay there, while others don’t. We’re essentially working to remineralize and strengthen your tooth enamel at the cellular level. Even though it might not look like you can see the fluoride there, a thin layer will still be effective! 

It can be as long as three weeks after a fluoride treatment that the mineral is still active on your tooth. For example, if you’re getting braces put on after a dental checkup, a fluoride treatment as long as a few weeks beforehand could prevent the bonding agent from adhering properly. Similarly, dentists will want to delay fluoride treatment until after any necessary fillings are placed (because of how the bond is affected.)

With de-sensitizing treatments, results can begin working in as little as one application for up to 3-4 months at a time before the fluoride needs to be re-applied. (different fluoride varnish brands might have different times and concentrations )

How Long After Fluoride Can I Eat?

How long after fluoride can I eat, you ask? Give it at least a half hour. If you want to go above and beyond, an hour is more than enough time. Depending on the varnish your dentist’s office uses, they might tell you that you can drink or eat immediately after the fluoride is applied. But when in doubt—or you forgot what they said during your appointment—give it at least a half hour before you eat or drink anything. Hot drinks like coffee need to be put off even longer than that, and plan to wait until the end of the day before you brush and floss. If it helps, plan your checkup right after breakfast or lunch, so you won’t be hungry afterward. 

 Whitney DiFoggio MA, RDH
Written by Whitney DiFoggio MA, RDH"Teeth Talk Girl," is a registered dental hygienist. She started her dental health journey on YouTube, educating the public through videos.
Dr. Matthew  Hannan DDS
Medical Reviewed byDr. Matthew Hannan DDSDr. Matthew Hannan is a board-certified dentist and graduate of UT Health San Antonio School of Dentistry.
Last updated onOctober 18, 2023Here is our process

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