Should You Brush Your Teeth After Throwing Up?

Should You Brush Your Teeth After Throwing Up?

 Whitney DiFoggio MA, RDH
Written by Whitney DiFoggio MA, RDH🔬 Evidence Based
Should You Brush Your Teeth After Throwing Up?

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. 

Do not brush your teeth right after vomiting. The acid in vomit erodes tooth enamel, but your saliva can naturally help remineralize this enamel. Brushing too soon can disrupt this process.

Vomiting Effects On Teeth

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. 

What To Do After Vomiting

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. 

Here are some good bits of advice:
  • Rinse your mouth with water immediately after throwing up. This will help with the taste and reduce the acid levels in your mouth.
  • Consider rinsing your mouth with an alcohol-free, essential oil mouth rinse or one that contains fluoride to help counteract the enamel erosion.
  • After 30 minutes, go ahead and brush your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Inspecting the tooth for any infection or secondary nerve canals
  • Cleaning out and re-shaping the canals
  • If you’re vomiting because of a virus or stomach bug, make sure you sterilize your toothbrush or replace it altogether.
  • Supplement with a fluoride gel or rinse to strengthen weak tooth enamel.
  • See your dentist regularly for advice on how to stay ahead of enamel erosion.

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. 

Minimize The Risk Of Acids Causing Tooth Decay

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. 

Other Risks With Stomach Issues 

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. 

1. Acid Reflux

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. 

2. Anti-Nausea Medications 

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. 

3. Tooth Sensitivity

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.

Talk With Your Dentist 

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. 

Dental Health and 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. 

 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.
Last updated onJanuary 19, 2024Here is our process

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