For the most part, we learn that our dental health depends on how often we brush and floss. We know that eating sugary foods causes cavities and that cavities are bad for our teeth. We know that unhealthy teeth can eventually decay, and we definitely know we don’t want that to happen. But, there’s more to healthy teeth than that. Yes, sugary foods are a huge contributor to cavities. However, do you know why that is? Do you know that it’s not actually the sugar that eats away at your enamel?
Your tooth enamel is a hard coating that protects the teeth from extreme temperatures and from decay. However, when the mouth is exposed to too much acidity, then the enamel begins to demineralize, which can ultimately lead to erosion. Once enamel is fully eroded, it does not grow back. Without enamel protection, teeth begin to decay.
What does it mean when my mouth is too acidic?
A substance is determined acidic by the pH scale. If a substance falls below 7 on the scale, it is considered acidic, with a pH of 1 being the most acidic. If a substance is above 7, it is considered alkaline, with a pH of 14 being the most alkaline. Substances with a pH of 7 are considered neutral, and ideally, we want our saliva to be as close to that as possible.
However, when you consume too much acidic food, like the aforementioned sugary foods, then your saliva eventually becomes acidic, too. Researchers have found that teeth will begin to decay once the mouth hits a pH of 5.9 or lower because the acidity in saliva breaks down enamel and fosters an environment for harmful bacteria to grow.
This isn’t just caused by sugary foods, though. If you experience acid reflux or suffer from other conditions where acid from your stomach is making its way into your oral cavity, that could also lower your mouth’s pH level. A variety of other foods can cause acidity as well, including citrus and wine.
What can I do to neutralize my mouth’s pH level?
Oral care products are alkaline mouthwash or tablets which allow the minerals, calcium, magnesium, and phosphates, which are already in the saliva, to remineralize the teeth rather than be leached out of the enamel by acids. Certain toothpaste and mouthwashes may also contain baking soda, turmeric, xylitol, and coconut oil, which buffer or neutralize acids.
However, these oral care products can’t perform well if you don’t watch what you eat. Moderate the amount of acid-forming foods you consume, and increase the amount of alkaline forming food you eat, which will help balance your saliva’s pH levels. Also, immediately buffer lemon, vinegar, and other citric acids with an alkaline rinse to prevent erosion.