How to Keep Teeth Clean in Between Meals

How do we keep our teeth clean after every meal without brushing them? Dr. Kara Fitzgerald shares the “secret ingredient.”

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Hi, I’m Dr. B, practicing functional dentist for 35 years. I graduated from the Dugoni School of Dentistry in San Francisco, CA in 1987 and am a member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM), Academy of General Dentistry (Chicago, IL), American Academy for Oral Systemic Health (AAOSH), and Dental Board of California. I'm on a mission to empower people everywhere with the same evidence-based, easy-to-understand dental health advice that my patients get. Learn more about Dr. B

My friend and colleague, Dr. Kara Fitzgerald, a brilliant functional medicine physician, emailed me a great question from one of her patients the other day. The patient asked:

Q: Is there any product you can recommend that will clean my mouth after I’ve eaten something, without having to brush my teeth? I don’t mean I want to stop brushing my teeth, but I don’t want to brush them every time I eat. I find that after I eat lunch, and if I have some dark chocolate, by the end of the day my gums are a little sensitive when I floss.

A: Dry brushing (no toothpaste) is best of course, and it’s what I do. However, chewing gum is extremely effective, as long as the artificial sweetener is natural and safe. If there is any sign of myofascial pain or TMD (temporomandibular joint disorders), then chewing gum may not be a good thing.

You only have to chew for about five minutes to get the benefits. The saliva production that occurs after gum chewing is way more effective than rinsing with mouthwash or water. That’s because saliva promotes remineralization—which is the process of replacing minerals in the teeth. Cavities form when a tooth loses minerals (demineralizes) faster than it replaces those minerals (remineralizes). Saliva encourages remineralization, helping your teeth replace minerals at a faster rate than it loses minerals to acids.

An ingredient called xylitol also promotes remineralization. Xylitol is a common ingredient in many natural chewing gums.

Drinking alkaline liquids after a meal also helps. Pellegrino has a pH of 7.9, but Perrier has a pH of 5.9. So you have to know your liquids! Tap water usually is on the acidic side of the pH scale.

It’s as simple as that! Your saliva is the best thing you’ve got to protect your teeth from acid-causing bacteria. As it is with most health-related issues, mother nature has a built-in solution that is better than any product you can buy in the store.

Mark Burhenne DDS

I highly recommend Dr. Kara Fitzgerald’s podcast, New Frontiers in Functional Medicine.

Learn More: What to Eat—And What to Avoid—to Heal Cavities Naturally