Brushing your teeth does not directly burn calories. However, brushing your teeth is an essential part of maintaining good oral hygiene and overall health. While the act of brushing itself does not require significant physical exertion, the benefits of brushing can indirectly affect calorie expenditure and weight management.
How Many Calories Does Brushing Your Teeth Burn?
The act of brushing your teeth does not burn a significant number of calories. A 155-pound (70 kg) person would burn approximately 1.3 calories brushing their teeth for 2 minutes. This calorie expenditure is minimal and brushing alone does not contribute meaningfully to daily calorie expenditure or weight loss.
Does Maintaining Oral Hygiene Affect Calorie Intake and Weight?
Although brushing itself does not burn many calories, maintaining good oral hygiene can have indirect effects on calorie intake and weight management. Here are some of the key ways that oral hygiene may influence calories and weight:
- Prevents overeating – Good oral hygiene can prevent issues like tooth pain, dental infections, and chewing problems which may lead to overeating of soft, processed foods.
- Enables intake of fiber-rich foods – With good oral hygiene, people can eat high-fiber fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds that require more chewing.
- Reduces inflammation – Gum disease is linked to systemic inflammation which may promote weight gain and make weight loss more difficult.
- Allows for calorie-burning exercise – Dental problems may reduce a person’s ability to do calorie-burning cardiovascular exercise.
While small, these factors can add up, especially over longer periods of time. One study found that people who brushed their teeth infrequently consumed an average of 100 more calories per day than those who brushed twice per day.
How Brushing Your Teeth Fits Into a Weight Loss Plan
Here are some ways that brushing your teeth can fit into a comprehensive weight loss plan:
- Make brushing a regular habit – Getting into a consistent daily brushing habit can establish routine and discipline needed for other healthy habits.
- Brush after eating – Brushing after meals can help resist snacking and additional calorie intake.
- Use a timer – Using a 2 or 3-minute timer can help establish the brushing routine.
- Buy healthy snacks – When shopping for oral hygiene items like floss and toothpaste, put healthy, low-calorie snacks in your basket too.
- Schedule regular dental cleanings – Professional cleanings every 6 months help hold you accountable for oral hygiene habits.
Tips for Brushing as Part of a Weight Loss Plan
Here are some tips to optimize brushing your teeth as part of an overall weight management strategy:
- Use a soft-bristled toothbrush – This is less likely to damage gums and teeth over vigorous brushing.
- Replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months – Old toothbrushes are less effective at plaque removal.
- Brush for 2 minutes – Set a timer to brush for the full recommended 2 minutes.
- Use fluoride toothpaste – Fluoride helps strengthen enamel and prevent cavities.
- Brush twice per day – Daily morning and evening brushing provides optimal oral hygiene.
- Clean all surfaces – Brush front, back, top, and between teeth for complete plaque removal.
The Importance of Flossing
Flossing is an essential complement to brushing for oral hygiene and managing calorie intake and weight. Flossing:
- Removes plaque between teeth that brushing misses.
- Cleans below the gumline to prevent gum inflammation.
- Reduces bad breath causing bacteria.
- Enables chewing a wider variety of healthy foods.
Aim to floss at least once per day, ideally before the evening brushing session. Using floss picks can make flossing easier.
Avoid Eating and Drinking Before Bedtime Brushing
It’s best to avoid eating and drinking right before brushing your teeth at night. Consuming food and beverages before bed makes your mouth more acidic and can weaken enamel. Waiting 30-60 minutes after eating or drinking before brushing protects your teeth. Drinking only water before bedtime brushing is fine.
See Your Dentist Regularly
Seeing your dentist for regular checkups and cleanings is crucial for monitoring your oral health. Professional cleanings can remove stubborn calculus deposits that daily brushing and flossing at home may miss. Your dentist can spot early signs of problems and take action to prevent further dental issues.
Consider Using Mouthwash
Using an antibacterial mouthwash as part of your oral hygiene routine can provide added protection against plaque, bad breath, and gingivitis. However, mouthwash should be used as an addition to brushing and flossing, not as a replacement. Choose mouthwashes without alcohol for the best oral health benefits.
Don’t Rely on Breath Mints or Gum
Breath mints and chewing gum may temporarily freshen breath after eating, but they do not remove plaque or food debris like brushing and flossing do. Relying solely on mints or gum can allow bacteria and plaque to continue building up, leading to cavities and gum disease.
Consider a Tongue Scraper
Using a tongue scraper when you brush can help remove bacteria, food debris, and dead cells from the surface of your tongue. This can improve bad breath and reduce the bacterial load in your mouth. Plastic tongue scrapers are inexpensive and easy to add to your brushing routine.
Watch What You Eat and Drink
Avoiding sugary and acidic foods and beverages can also help protect your oral health in addition to brushing. Limit snacking throughout the day and be mindful of hidden sugars in processed foods. Also, cut back on acidic drinks like soda, juice, sports drinks, and alcohol which can erode tooth enamel over time.
See a Dentist if You Experience Discomfort
See a dentist promptly if you experience any mouth pain, swelling, injuries, lesions, tooth loss, persistent bad breath, or other abnormalities. Ignoring dental issues can allow relatively minor problems to escalate into major tooth decay, gum disease, and destruction of oral tissues.
Consider Fluoride Treatments
If you are at high risk for cavities, discuss fluoride treatments with your dentist. Regular fluoride treatments can strengthen tooth enamel and make teeth more resistant to decay. Treatment options include fluoride gels, foams, rinses, and varnishes applied topically at dental visits.
Don’t Smoke or Use Tobacco
Avoiding tobacco use is crucial for good oral hygiene. Smoking and tobacco use increases risk for gum disease, oral cancer, and tooth loss. If you currently smoke or use tobacco, talk to your doctor about tobacco cessation strategies.
Practice Good Nutrition
Eating a nutritious diet with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, nuts and healthy fats helps optimize overall health, including oral and dental health. Adequate vitamin C and calcium intake can boost tissue repair and strengthen tooth enamel.
Use Supplements Wisely
Some dietary supplements like vitamin D, probiotics, green tea, and cranberry may help protect against cavities, gum disease, and bad breath. However, excess supplementation can have risks, so talk to your doctor before starting any supplement regimen.
Consider Xylitol and Other Oral Health Products
Xylitol is a sugar substitute found in some mints, gum, and oral health products. It has been shown to reduce levels of tooth decay-causing bacteria. Xylitol toothpaste, wipes, gum, and other products are options if approved by your dentist.
Practice Stress Management
Chronic stress can increase inflammation levels, impair immunity, and contribute to behaviors like smoking that negatively impact oral health. Managing stress through yoga, meditation, counseling, social support, or other techniques may help protect your overall and oral health.
Avoid Oral Piercings and Jewelry
Oral piercings like tongue and lip piercings can cause fractured teeth, gingivitis, nerve damage, excessive wear of tooth enamel, and other oral health issues. Avoid oral piercings whenever possible. Also be cautious using oral jewelry like grillz, which can trap plaque and irritate gums.
Consider Electric or Sonic Toothbrushes
Electric and sonic toothbrushes may provide superior plaque removal compared to manual brushing. They also simplify establishing an effective brushing routine. If affordability is an issue, some quality electric toothbrush models are available at lower price points.
Stop Habits That Damage Teeth
Avoid habits that can damage teeth and lead to tooth loss and extraction such as chewing ice, opening bottles/packages with your teeth, biting nails and pens, and clenching or grinding teeth. Talk to your dentist about braces or mouthguards to help correct damaging habits.
Rinse With Water After Acidic Foods
After consuming acidic foods and drinks which can weaken enamel, rinse your mouth with plain water. This helps neutralize acid and prevents damage to teeth. It’s a good habit to rinse with water after drinking orange juice, soda, wine, or other acidic beverages.
Don’t Forego Dental Care
Seeing a dentist regularly for exams and cleanings is essential, even if you have good at-home oral hygiene. Professional cleanings remove mineralized plaque deposits and enable early intervention for potential issues. Don’t avoid or delay necessary dental work due to cost or anxiety.
In summary, brushing your teeth does not burn many calories directly. However, maintaining good oral hygiene through daily brushing and flossing, seeing your dentist regularly, and minimizing foods/drinks that damage teeth can promote overall health and indirectly support weight management. Establishing lasting oral hygiene habits takes consistency and discipline, similar to adhering to a diet or exercise program. Focus on making brushing and flossing daily habits alongside other healthy lifestyle behaviors.