Whether you’ve just had a bad stomach bug, a bout of food poisoning, a chemo patient, are struggling with morning sickness, or are battling an eating disorder, should you brush your teeth after throwing up? You might want to rush straight to the sink to grab your brush and toothpaste, but brushing teeth after vomiting can actually be really, really bad for your tooth enamel.
Does that mean you can’t freshen up to at least get rid of some of that funky taste? No. There are safe ways to lower the acid levels in your mouth until you’re in the clear to brush your teeth again. But if you brush right after you throw up, you’ll be doing more harm than good.
Stomach acids are horrible for tooth enamel. As an example, people who have unmanaged acid reflux disease typically have permanent enamel erosion on their teeth. The acids wear right through them, causing your enamel to erode right before your eyes.
When you throw up, those same stomach acids are coming straight into your mouth at full force. Obviously, you’ll want to get rid of the gross taste, but tooth brushing isn’t the way to do it. Why? Because it will simply rub all of those acids all over your teeth, making the erosion and cavities even worse.
While you do want to minimize the acid exposure to your teeth, regular brushing isn’t the way to do it. Especially if you struggle with frequent nausea or food insecurities where the acid exposure is going to be a recurring issue.
Someone who throws up frequently, such as a person living with bulimia nervosa, usually has thinning in the tooth enamel of their upper front teeth. Those teeth may even start to look yellow or become sensitive over time due to enamel erosion. Brushing right after throwing up can speed up the erosion process or make it even worse.
So…what can you do if you shouldn’t brush your teeth right after throwing up? You can instead mix 1 teaspoon of baking soda with water. Swirl this mixture in your mouth for a short time and then spit it out. The combination of baking soda and water helps to neutralize the acids and offers better protection for your teeth.
If you’re struggling with food insecurity, talk to your dental team about ways to improve your oral health as part of your comprehensive plan to address this specific health concern. Everything discussed during your visit is confidential!
Chew gum or sugar free cough drops with xylitol in it between brushing sessions to limit acid levels and promote healthy saliva production and prevent dental erosion.
Someone who has long-term nausea because of chemotherapy, super-bad morning sickness, flu or other medical issues will want to have a game plan to stay ahead of acid erosion from vomiting.
If possible, address the nausea. It might not be an option, but if it’s because of a specific medical condition, be sure to discuss the concern with your doctor.
Up your fluoride use and brushing to limit cavity causing bacteria. Rinse with a fluoride mouthwash or ask your dentist for a prescription gel to use at night before you go to bed, especially if you’re already showing signs of enamel erosion.
Drink plenty of water during the day to stay hydrated, and rinse your mouth out with water every time you throw up.
Make sure you wait at least a half hour after throwing up before you brush your teeth. Brushing sooner than that will usually spread the acids around even more.
When things don’t stay down inside their stomach like they ought to, they pose a risk to our teeth. Even if you’re not suffering from nausea, conditions like acid reflux disease can do a number on your oral hygiene.
Don’t wait for your heartburn to be completely miserable before you address the symptoms of tooth erosion. It’s possible for people with acid reflux disease to have eroded teeth without any major symptoms of GERD.
When you consider how damaging reflux is to your teeth, it’s even worse on the soft tissues of your esophagus. Definitely listen to your medical provider when it comes to their treatment recommendations.
If your doctor needs to put you on nausea medication to help manage the side effects from chemotherapy or morning sickness, you might also find that you’re struggling with dry mouth. If that’s the case, be sure to rinse with water after meals, sip on water throughout the day, and use fluoride products when you can.
Hopefully, the situation is short-lived, so taking prescription medication may be the best thing you can do to prevent enamel erosion caused by vomiting.
When you vomit, stomach acid comes into contact with your teeth and gums. This exposure to stomach acid can lead to tooth decay and increase tooth sensitivity.
Your dental team will be the first ones to tell if you have enamel erosion from nausea or reflux disease. Brushing teeth after vomiting will just make things worse. They’re there to help you, so be open and honest with them about your struggles. Everything is confidential, I promise. Your dentist can assess your specific oral condition and recommend the best preventative approach to reduce the dental damage caused by vomiting.
Whether you’re pregnant, a cancer patient, or have a chronic condition that causes you to throw up on a frequent basis, make sure you’re not brushing your teeth right after a bout of nausea. Instead, rinse your mouth with water and wait at least a good half hour before you brush your teeth. When you do, be sure to use fluoride products that help remineralize your tooth enamel and slow the progression of erosion across your smile.
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