Sometimes, it’s the things we overlook that have the greatest impact upon our oral health. One frequently neglected dental topic is that of acidity, or pH. Our bodies prefer to have an environment within the mouth that is pH neutral.
What is pH?
The term pH refers to “potential of hydrogen,” which is a scale in chemistry measuring the acidity or alkalinity of a substance. A given substance can have a pH ranging from one to 14. A pH of seven is considered to be neutral. Anything below the value of seven is acidic. The lower the number, the more acidic it is. Anything higher than seven is alkaline.
Effects of pH Levels in Your Mouth
To maintain good oral health, you want to try to keep your mouth near a neutral pH level of seven. Acidic pH levels can harm your teeth by causing tooth enamel erosion and eventual tooth decay. The environment within your mouth can experience pH level changes due to the consumption of certain foods and beverages, as well as certain medical treatments and conditions. Even some kinds of oral care products can affect pH levels within the mouth.
How do Foods Affect pH?
Whenever you eat or drink something, oral bacteria found within plaque gobbles up sugars, leading to an acidic attack. This assault on the teeth goes on for about 20 minutes after each such exposure, exposing and decalcifying the teeth’s outer layer, known as enamel. This thinning of tooth enamel weakens the teeth, causing eventual sensitivity and tooth decay.
So, although sugary foods and beverages are certainly harmful, acidic ones are as well. They essentially “cut out the middleman,” leading to dental erosion. In turn, this can leave your teeth even more vulnerable to oral bacteria.
Medical Causes of Changes in pH
Tooth structure damage can also be a consequence of some types of medical conditions that allow stomach acids to spill into the throat and mouth. Some of these conditions include acid reflux and bulimia. Cancer patients are usually affected by pH imbalance. Conditions causing vomiting and nausea lead to stomach acids attacking tooth structures.
How to encourage a neutral pH environment within your mouth:
- Limit your consumption of acidic foods and beverages.
- If possible, use a straw to sip acidic drinks.
- Use oral care products with a slightly alkaline or neutral pH.
- Rinse your mouth with water to neutralize acids.
- Keep up with routine dental visits. Tooth decay leads to an imbalance between harmful and healthy oral bacteria, promoting a low oral pH.
What To Look For if You’re Concerned
Tooth discoloration is a great indicator of tooth erosion by oral acidity. When tooth enamel becomes eroded, the darker dentin layer of the tooth is exposed, making teeth appear stained.
Tooth sensitivity is also a common sign of tooth erosion. This occurs because the exposed dentin layer of the teeth is softer and more vulnerable to decay and sensitivity to extreme temperatures.
Thanks for your support!
– Dr. Houlik