Taking care of your health and well-being starts with being mindful of what you put in your body. Since the foods and drinks, you consume interact with your mouth first, your diet has a huge impact on your oral health. Your oral health includes the condition of your gums, teeth, and saliva—all of which are directly impacted by the kinds of substances you ingest.
You’re probably well-aware that sugar causes tooth decay, but have you ever wondered why? Well, sugars and carbohydrates are highly acidic forming, which leads to an imbalance in your mouth’s pH levels. Therefore, an alkaline-forming foods diet can help prevent too much acidity in the mouth, leading to healthier teeth and gums.
What are pH levels and why do they matter to my mouth?
Scientists measure the acidity or alkalinity of a substance using a pH scale. When referring to a pH level, that could mean anywhere between 0 and 14 on the pH scale. Substances that fall below 7 are considered acidic, and substances above 7 are considered alkaline. A substance with a pH of 7, or a pH very close to 7, is considered neutral. An example of a substance with a neutral pH is pure water.
Your mouth’s pH levels are measured through the pH of your saliva. This is important because acidic saliva can break down tooth enamel or cause inflammation in the gums, which can lead to tooth decay, tooth loss, or gingivitis. Since sugar and other carbohydrates are acidic forming foods, consuming too much can lead to cavities, or even tooth infections as a result. Essentially, these acidic compounds promote the growth of harmful bacteria while deteriorating an environment for healthy bacteria to thrive. Eating alkaline-forming foods can prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and maintain a stable environment for healthy bacteria.
The Ecological Plaque Hypothesis, researched by P.D. Marsh, proves that changing environmental factors in the oral microbiome will prevent tooth decay without fluoride. By raising oral pH with an alkaline mouthwash, bad bacteria are negated while good bacteria are able to flourish.
The Golden Equation for Natural Prevention of Dental Decay is that prolonged/intense low pH in the mouth = death of healthy bacteria/overgrowth of cavity-causing bacteria = caries infection = CAVITIES.
Dental plaque should be kept at a pH of 7.0 or greater to balance the bacterial species, reducing aciduric and acidogenic (cavity-causing) bacteria even during exposure to sugar. If the pH in the mouth can be maintained at a neutral or alkaline pH, regardless of sugar, food, or acidic drink consumption, the healthy bacteria within the dental plaque biofilm will not die and the shift to cavity-causing bacteria will not occur.2
What is an alkaline diet?
An alkaline diet simply means eating more alkaline foods. Most alkaline foods are unprocessed and usually raw, which are a good countermeasure for the various sugary and processed foods that are so prominent today. By eating alkaline foods, you’re helping your body balance out its pH levels without causing it unnecessary strain. This also keeps acid from building up in your oral cavity, preventing the oral conditions mentioned above. Foods that are considered alkaline include:
- Fresh vegetables: cabbage, cucumber, carrots, broccoli, spinach, sprouts
- Certain fruits: pomegranate, avocado, coconut, apricots, strawberries, kiwi, watermelon
- Beans, lentils, quinoa
- Oils and fats
- Nuts and seeds: almonds, sesame seeds, hazelnuts, cumin seeds
It is important to note that certain fruits can be highly acidic to the mouth, like orange and lemon. These fruits actually alkalize once they are digested, but their acid remains in the mouth. It is a good idea to drink water after consuming acidic fruits to help restore a balanced pH in your mouth.