Drinking fluids in the morning is a healthy habit regularly recommended by leading health experts. After all, we lose about a liter of water overnight just from the humidity of our breath. So staying adequately hydrated with water upon waking (and throughout the day) is key to feeling and performing your best. Coffee, although a diuretic, is another popular morning beverage option that’s packed with antioxidants and gut-health benefits, and having a cup in the morning may, for some of us, be the deciding factor between a productive day and a very sleepy day. .
But that said, is it safe for your pearly whites to brush right after drinking a cup of coffee? And when it comes to drinking water right before brushing our teeth, should we ever worry about swallowing bacteria that has built up overnight with it?
For definitive answers, we reached out to Sharon Huang, DDS, dentist and founder and CEO of Les Belles NYC dental practice.
Is it safe to drink water in the morning before brushing your teeth?
Thankfully, Dr. Huang is giving the green light on that front, so those of us who get up and shine while enjoying a glass of water before brushing our teeth can all breathe a collective sigh of relief. “When we swallow water, it mixes with the enzymes in our saliva and goes down into the stomach, which is very acidic,” she says. “The acid in the stomach will kill the bacteria in the water.” In other words, stomach acid comes to the rescue before any bacterial buildup that has built up in your mouth overnight has a chance to cause restlessness throughout your body.
With that in mind, Dr. Huang notes that the taste of your morning breath might not be as palatable. “While it’s safe to drink water before brushing your teeth because stomach acid kills bacteria, it doesn’t always taste good,” she says. If this applies to you (no shame!), she mentions that it will be more refreshing if you are able to rinse and spit before swallowing water – but again, it will be more a matter of taste and personal preference in relation to safety. “The taste of water may be related to your morning breath, but it poses no threat,” reiterates Dr. Huang.
Is it better to drink coffee before or after brushing your teeth?
While you’re not sure if you choose to drink water before or after brushing, you might be wondering if the same flexibility applies to coffee. On this point, Dr. Huang says that java drinkers should be more careful. In fact, she says brushing your teeth right after your caffeine fix is strongly discouraged.
“Foods and drinks that are high in acid — coffee is one of them — demineralize your teeth or soften your tooth enamel,” says Dr. Huang. “Do anything with your teeth immediately after [such as ] Brushing or flossing while the enamel is soft can damage the teeth, cause sensitivity, or develop weak spots that can lead to cavities.
Keep in mind that this only applies to brushing your teeth immediately after you finish your coffee. You can still brush your teeth. Dr. Huang advises waiting at least 30 minutes to an hour. “Once you’ve had your cup of coffee, rinse your mouth out with water and wait at least 30 minutes after you’ve finished drinking coffee to brush again. After 30 minutes, your enamel has hardened again and won’t brush off,” she says.
Dr. Huang also adds that brushing before coffee time is ideal because plaque and bacteria build up on teeth overnight. “If plaque is on your teeth when you drink your coffee, which means you haven’t brushed your teeth yet, the coffee can stain the plaque, making the teeth look darker.” Read: Less plaque buildup means less risk of discoloration. To keep your pearly whites as shiny as possible, try brushing *before* you brew a new cup.
Is there a good time to wait before drinking water or coffee *after* brushing?
To complement our pressing questions about dental health and morning bevs, we were curious if we should wait a certain amount of time after brushing before hydrating or taking caffeine. “After brushing, it is safe to drink water and coffee immediately because the minerals in the toothpaste have strengthened, remineralized and rid the tooth surface of bacteria buildup,” Dr. Huang shares. “However, for the best taste, you might want to wait 10 minutes to avoid coffee or toothpaste flavored water.”
How to keep your teeth in good shape if you’re a coffee drinker
1. Maintain an oral health routine
According to Dr. Huang, the best oral care routine for everyone, but especially coffee drinkers, consists of four key steps to perform daily and in the following order. Start by flossing, then brush your teeth (do this step morning and evening, ideally with an electric toothbrush). Next, Dr. Huang recommends using a tongue scraper to remove bacteria from the tongue. And finally, finish with an alcohol-free mouthwash.
“The most important things are flossing daily and brushing twice a day,” says Dr. Huang. “They’re essential for removing plaque and debris from your coffee or any drink or food, as well as the natural buildup of bacteria that occurs in all mouths.” Adding mouthwash to your oral care routine is also a great idea. “Mouthwash can help further remove bacteria, plaque, and debris, and keep your breath fresh.”
Religiously implementing this four-step oral hygiene routine not only reduces the buildup of bacteria in the mouth, but also means there are fewer places for coffee stains to settle. “Superficial stains adhere to bacteria on the surface before penetrating into the deeper layers of the teeth to become deep stains,” says Dr. Huang.
2. Get your teeth cleaned twice a year
For stain prevention and general oral health, it is also essential to have your teeth professionally cleaned twice a year. “Your dentist has powerful tools to remove surface stains before they start migrating to the deeper layers of the teeth,” says Dr. Huang.
3. Use whitening toothpaste
Whitening toothpaste is another way to help fight stains and it’s a strategy Dr. Huang recommends if your teeth can tolerate it without increased sensitivity. “I always recommend alternating a whitening toothpaste with a toothpaste formulated for sensitive teeth to decrease sensitivity,” she says. Check out the best whitening products recommended by Dr. Huang here.