Drinking fluids in the morning is a healthy habit routinely recommended by leading health experts. After all, we lose about a liter of water overnight just from the moisture in our breath, so staying properly hydrated with water upon waking (and throughout the day) is essential to feeling and performing at your best. Coffee, while a diuretic, is another popular morning beverage option that’s packed with antioxidants and gut health benefits, and having a morning cup can, for some of us, be the deciding factor between having a productive day and a very sleepy one.
But with that said, is it safe to brush your teeth right after you have a cup of coffee? And when it comes to drinking water just before brushing, should we worry about swallowing the bacteria that accumulates overnight along 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?
Fortunately, Dr. Huang gives the green light on this front, so those of us who rise and shine by enjoying a glass of water before brushing can all breathe a collective sigh of relief. “When we swallow water, it mixes with the enzymes in our saliva and goes down to the stomach, which is very acidic,” he says. “The acid in the stomach will kill the bacteria in the water.” In other words, stomach acid comes to the rescue before any buildup of bacteria that builds up in your mouth overnight has a chance to cause a body-wide shock.
With that in mind, Dr. Huang notes that the taste of his morning breath might not be as appetizing. “While it’s safe to drink water before you brush your teeth because stomach acid will kill bacteria, it may not always taste pleasant,” she says. If this applies to you (don’t be embarrassed!), she mentions that it will be more refreshing if you can rinse and spit before swallowing water, although again, this will be more a matter of taste and pleasant preference than safety. “The taste of the water may be related to your morning breath, but it doesn’t pose a threat,” Dr. Huang reiterates.
Is it better to drink coffee before or after brushing your teeth?
While it’s not clear whether you choose to drink water before or after brushing, you may be wondering if the same flexibility applies when it comes to coffee. On this point, Dr. Huang says that coffee drinkers should be more cautious. In fact, he says brushing your teeth immediately after taking your caffeine fix is strongly discouraged.
“High-acid foods and beverages (coffee is one of them) demineralize teeth, or soften tooth enamel,” explains Dr. Huang. “Doing anything with your teeth immediately after [such as ] Brushing or flossing your teeth while the enamel is soft can damage your teeth, causing sensitivity or developing weak spots that can lead to cavities.
Please note that this only applies to tooth brushing. immediately after finishing 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 with water and wait at least 30 minutes after you’ve finished drinking coffee to brush again. After the 30-minute mark, your enamel has re-hardened and will not be removed by brushing,” she says.
Dr. Huang also adds that brushing your teeth before coffee time is ideal because plaque and bacteria build up on your teeth overnight. “If you get plaque on your teeth when you drink coffee, which means you haven’t brushed yet, the coffee can stain the plaque and make your teeth look darker.” Read: Less plaque buildup means less chance of discoloration, so to keep your teeth as bright white as possible, try brushing *before* you brew a new cup.
Is there an ideal time to wait before drinking water or coffee *after* brushing?
To top off our pressing questions about dental health and morning habits, we were curious to see if we should wait a specific amount of time after brushing before hydrating or caffeinating. “After brushing, it is safe to drink water and coffee immediately, as the minerals in the toothpaste have been fortified, remineralized, and removed the buildup of bacteria on the surface of the teeth,” shares Dr. Huang. “However, for the best flavor, you may want to wait 10 minutes to avoid coffee or toothpaste-flavored water.”
How to keep your teeth in good shape if you are 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 that should be done daily and in the following order. Start by flossing first, then brush your teeth (do this step morning and night, 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 elements are daily flossing and brushing twice a day,” says Dr. Huang. “They are essential for removing plaque and debris from coffee or any beverage or food, as well as the natural buildup of bacteria that occurs in every mouth.” Adding a mouthwash to your oral care routine is also a great idea. “A mouthwash can help further remove bacteria, plaque, and debris, as well as keep your breath fresh.”
Religious implementation of this four-step oral hygiene routine not only keeps bacteria buildup in your mouth low, it also means there are fewer places for coffee stains to stick. “Superficial stains attach to bacteria on the surface before reaching 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 overall oral health, getting professional dental cleanings twice a year is also key. “Your dentist has powerful tools to remove surface stains before they start to migrate into the deeper layers of your teeth,” says Dr. Huang.
3. Use whitening toothpaste
Whitening toothpaste is another way to help fight stains and is a strategy Dr. Huang recommends if your teeth can tolerate it without increasing sensitivity. “I always recommend alternating a whitening toothpaste with a toothpaste formulated for sensitive teeth to lessen sensitivity,” she says. Take a look at Dr. Huang’s top recommended whitening products here.