What is pH?
pH is a measure of the acidity or the alkalinity of water soluble substances. pH means the potential of Hydrogen. The value can be represented by a number between 1 to 14. A value of 7 is considered neutral. A number below 7 (neutral) means that the substance is going towards the acidic spectrum. A value of 1 is most acidic, while a value above 7 indicates the substance is increasing in alkalinity. A value of 14 is the most alkaline.
pH & Your Oral Health
When it comes teeth, a value of 5.5 signals the stage at which teeth begin to demineralise or dissolve. Constant exposure to acids leaves teeth looking discoloured, weaken the tooth structure and lead to acid wear or erosion. A value higher than 5.5 is the stage at which the teeth start to remineralise.
Microorganisms in the mouth usually require a neutral pH value to grow. Extreme changes in the acidity or alkalinity of the mouth will affect the microorganisms. Saliva controls the pH value for the majority of areas in the mouth. Saliva has an average value of between 6.2 to 7.6. Optimal values for healthy microorganism growth in the mouth depends on the parts of the mouth where saliva is present. Changes occur in the number of healthy to unhealthy bacteria due to fluctuations in the pH level of the mouth.
Depending on what we eat, the pH level can drop rapidly to below a value of 5. The reduction is due to the production of acids that the bacteria produce when they metabolise ingested foods.
When acidic foods or drinks are frequently consumed, the microorganisms in the mouth are exposed to acidic levels for an extended duration. The healthy bacteria is the mouth is only capable of withstanding short durations of lower pH levels. As a result, frequent exposures to acidity cause the healthy bacteria to die and lead to cavity-causing bacteria. Put simply, a mouth that is in a consistently acidic state increases the risk or developing cavities.
Maintaining Optimum pH Levels
To help preserve the healthy bacteria in the mouth the pH level needs to be in a neutral or alkaline state. In an alkaline state, healthy bacteria survives, and the number of cavity-causing bacteria diminishes. A healthy pH balance in the mouth explains why some people have few dental issues without doing much. Whereas, someone who consistently sticks to a proper oral care routine may still develop dental problems due to a pH imbalance.
Consuming alkaline foods helps to keep healthy bacteria safe and prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. Avoiding foods that are acidic is one way to help prevent the mouth from becoming an acidic environment. However, many foods are both nutritionally beneficial and damaging due to their acidity. If you eat a lot of foods that are acidic, rinsing your mouth with water afterwards helps to wash away the acidic residue. Brushing after eating meals with toothpaste and baking soda also increases the alkalinity of the mouth because baking soda has a pH value of 9. Be sure to allow enough time after eating acidic foods before brushing to avoid acid wear or erosion.
Chewing gum that contains the ingredient xylitol will reduce the number of bad bacteria in the mouth. It helps to buffer the teeth to protect them against acids. Chewing gum after meals also increases the saliva flow to protect teeth against bacteria and to flush away left-over food debris.
The Impact Of Food
Bad bacteria in the mouth produce lactic acid as a byproduct when they feed off of the sugars that we consume. This type of acid is the primary cause of tooth decay. Foods that contain sucrose, glucose, lactose, and fructose are available sources of sugars for harmful bacteria. Examples are sodas, mustards, ketchup, pasta, candies, bread, beef, coffee, tomatoes, wine, certain natural fruits, etc. Manage the production of cavity-causing acids and control of the growth of harmful bacteria by reducing consumption of these sugary foods.
Eating foods that are on the alkaline spectrum will restore alkalinity to the mouth. Foods such as cucumbers, broccoli, spinach, sweet potatoes, onions, green beans, asparagus, mangoes, soy beans, lima beans, avocados and peas are alkaline.
In addition to the types of foods consumed, the frequency of meals also matters. When acidic meals and snacks are continuously consumed throughout the day, the saliva will not have enough time to remineralise the teeth and achieve a neutral pH in the mouth. Try to finish meals with food that is alkaline or eat snacks that are alkaline between meals. Eating cheese at the end of a meal will remineralise the tooth’s enamel.
When planning your next meal, remember to keep in mind the side effects that various foods will have on the pH level in the mouth. Plan your meals to ensure that a good amount of alkaline foods are included and Consume alkaline foods at the end of a meal when possible.
About Dr. Joseph Salvaggio
|Located in Brampton, Ontario Dr. Joseph Salvaggio has been practicing general, cosmetic, and implant dentistry for over 20 years. He enjoys interacting with his patients and helping to restore their oral health for better overall health as well. Meeting new patients, interacting and educating them is one of Dr. Salvaggio’s biggest joys. We encourage you to read our reviews or call us with any dental questions you have. We look forward to speaking with you and meeting you soon.|