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Does Brushing Your Teeth Affect Your Appetite?

For years, people trying to lose a few extra pounds have been offered tips like ‘If you get hungry, just brush your teeth," and for many people, that advice has proven to be sage. But as writers at the magazine Popular Science recently discovered, that wisdom doesn’t hold true for everyone.  Following some recent engagement with fans on their Twitter page, the brains behind Popular Science discovered a surprising number of their followers believe that brushing their teeth actually makes them hungrier, not the opposite. So, which is true? Both ideas can’t be right- or can they?


To find out, Popular Science spoke with a registered dietitian who confirmed that no, brushing your teeth does not have any direct effect on your appetite either way. What does influence your appetite, however, may surprise you!  According to Popular Science, the relation between your appetite and your teeth may have more to do with behavior patterns than anything else. Consider this: If you wake up in the morning and eat breakfast before brushing your teeth, you are unconsciously training your brain that full stomach = clean teeth. Similarly, if you wait until after your last meal in the evening, you again signal your brain that a full stomach means it’s time to brush your teeth. It unconsciously becomes a signal for your brain to stop eating, and for people who are trying to lose weight, brushing your teeth to quell hunger is pretty solid advice.  After all, you’ve already gone through the trouble to get your teeth clean- eating again not only runs the risk of changing the taste of your food (ever had an orange after brushing?) but then you have to go back and brush all over again- especially if you’ve had something sweet. Sugar on your teeth is bad enough- but leave it on your teeth undisturbed for 6-8 hours, and you’ve got a perfect recipe for cavities.

On the other hand, if you are the kind of person who wakes up and brushes their teeth before breakfast, you are triggering your brain to associate brushing your teeth with an empty stomach. Which is what the researchers at Popular Science believe could be responsible for one cause of feeling hungry after brushing, along with the sweetness of the toothpaste you use possibly activating your sweet tooth, for example.

The good news, especially for people looking to shed some extra weight, is that if Popular Science’s theory holds true, you should be able to retrain your brain to associate tooth-brushing with fullness. By simply switching your brushing time to immediately after a breakfast and dinner, instead of before breakfast and right before bed. For those who absolutely must brush before breakfast, but who want to quash that hungry feeling they may get following brushing, see if you can get by with just rinsing with mouthwash before breakfast and hold off on actually brushing until you’ve finished your meal. Or try to brush your teeth as soon after your final meal as possible- which has a whole bunch of added benefits, like freshening your garlic breath and getting that embarrassing piece of spinach out of your teeth.

Ready to schedule your next appointment? Call Dr. Simpson's office at (910) 550-3959.

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