If you work in an office or eat lunch out every day of the week, it can be tough to stay on top of oral hygiene in the middle of the day. After all, time is at a premium during the lunch hour, and we rarely think about what’s best for our teeth when we’re on our lunch break. Even at the times when we bring our lunch in, oral health is rarely the focus at lunch time. While brushing at least twice daily is always recommended even outside of lunch, let’s take a closer look at how to take care of your teeth when you’re away from home in the office.
Generally the first time you brush your teeth is early in the day at home. While it’s important to start the day with a thorough brushing, what you do directly after can make a big difference. For example, if you brush but then grab coffee and a quick breakfast on the way to work, this can be less than ideal for your dental health. This is because you might not brush again until later in the evening. In the meantime food and liquids that can be hard on your teeth like coffee, tea or sugar sit on your teeth for a while before you brush again. Drinking water and swishing it around your teeth is your best line of defense if this is the case. This helps rinse staining agents and items like sugar that can cause bacterial growth and prompt tooth decay. The sooner you are able to rinse those items off your teeth, the better your overall oral health outlook is for the day. (You can learn more in Dental Care When You Don’t Have A Toothbrush).
Not to be overlooked, bringing your toothbrush to the office or work and brushing after lunch is a great way to counteract any potential issues from a long day away from your home. Now you don’t have to wait until 9 o’clock to get that important brushing in after a cup of coffee or sugary meal. While some people may scoff at the idea of brushing in the company bathroom, it’s actually quite easy to do. Packing a folding brush and travel toothpaste really doesn’t take up much space, and even a short session goes a long way in the middle of the day. It’s possible to get a quick brushing in even at the restaurant, and many patients like those with Invisalign or special dental needs do it all the time. You’ve probably seen it before and paid little attention to it. Essentially you can brush almost anywhere if you’re looking to pay special attention to midday oral health.
Healthy choices are important for many reasons including nutrition, but whatever you order out at lunch should factor into your dental health outlook as well. As we mentioned before, coffee can be a damaging substance for your teeth. Not only is it high in acids that can erode enamel, it is also among the most staining agents you can drink. Our primary advice is whenever you drink coffee, make sure to drink water along with it as well and swish the tannins from the coffee. (Note tannins are a compound found in liquids like coffee and red wine that can contribute to staining of the teeth).
The better bet is to avoid coffee as much as you can, or sip iced coffee through a straw. Sugary foods are the other big item to avoid while eating lunch in a restaurant. We are inclined to fill that “sugar or caffeine rush” in the middle or “slump” of the day. Yet this is really the worse thing we can do for our teeth at a vulnerable time of the day. Sugary drinks, pastries and other unhealthy foods aren’t great options for lunch, or our teeth either. Instead we recommend focusing on fresh vegetables, fruits, lean proteins and whole grains to get you through the “lunch slump.” Dairy is also a great food for lunch as its compounds fight bacteria growth from items like starchy foods and sugars. Also as it has been extensively advertised, the calcium in dairy can help strengthen your teeth.
Many of us have worked hard to develop meal prep or bring in lunches to work. This helps us not only save money but eat healthier in the process. Even if you don’t bring your lunch in every day, the days you do are certainly a victory. Again, vegetables and healthy proteins like fish or chicken are a good place to base your midday meals around. Please try to refrain from energy drinks or sugary pastries in your lunch kit. Instead healthy energy like nuts (minus the candy and sticky dried fruit from trail mix), fruits and vegetables can provide a natural pickup in place of sugar.
We leave you with an important point - while foods and drinks high in sugar can stick to your teeth and encourage decay, foods like dairy and vegetables can actually strengthen your teeth when you can’t brush. Part of your midday oral health approach involves healthy choices, both for your diet and teeth. As a bonus, if you can find a way to brush during your lunch hour, especially if your meal isn’t the most friendly to your teeth, chances are you’ll have a sterling checkup next time you visit your dentist. Speaking of, if you have more questions about your lunch break and how it impacts your dental health, contact us at Grace & Leedy Family Dentistry and we’ll be happy to talk through our top recommendations.