Oral Acidity and Tooth Decay
Everyone knows about fluoride and its effect on tooth enamel and dental caries. We also understand the importance of brushing, flossing, and regular dental exams. However, a lesser-known factor can significantly contribute to keeping your teeth healthy and free of tooth decay. This factor is the pH, or acid-base balance, of your mouth. Continue reading to learn more about how to help prevent tooth decay with healthy saliva.
What Is Acid-Base Balance?
A healthy body requires a delicate balance of the right amounts of acid and base in your blood and other body fluids. We measure this acidity (acid) and alkalinity (base) on a scale of 0-14, known as pH (power of Hydrogen). A lower pH is more acidic and a higher pH is more alkaline. For example, most soft drinks are acidic with a pH of around 3.0. On the other hand, broccoli is much less acidic, and its pH approaches a neutral7.0.
What Is The pH Inside Your Mouth?
Your saliva is 99% water with the remaining portion being a complex mixture that contributes to a pH that averages 6.3, just below neutral. Saliva helps maintain a healthy pH in your mouth in two ways. First, your saliva flow removes carbohydrates that can break down into acidic sugars. Second, saliva neutralizes acidic foods, drinks, and the acids produced by plaque bacteria.
In addition to the critical influence of saliva, factors that can affect the acidity in your mouth include:
How Are Your Teeth Affected by Acid-Base Balance?
Although tooth enamel is the hardest substance in your body, it is also one of the most susceptible to acidic pH damage. Since enamel begins dissolving when exposed to a prolonged acidic environment, raising the pH is crucial for healthy teeth. Neutralizing acidic foods and beverages as soon as possible helps protect your enamel from damaging tooth decay and erosion. Having water during and after your meal instead of an acidic beverage such as tea (pH 5.0) or wine (pH 2.5-3.5) will aid in this neutralization.
One of the advantages of a more alkaline (higher pH) environment is the repair of enamel that is harmed by acids. This damage can be reversed if calcium and phosphate minerals from healthy saliva get deposited into the enamel early. When this remineralization occurs before the enamel destruction approaches the underlying dentin, you can avoid a dental filling.
How To Have the Best Saliva and Prevent Tooth Decay
In addition to brushing, flossing, and regular dental check-ups, you can help prevent tooth decay by increasing the pH of your mouth and saliva and having a healthy salivary flow. Steps you can take to improve the quality of your saliva include:
Dry Mouth and Tooth Decay
Dry mouth, or xerostomia, affects people of all ages and increases as you get older. It is estimated that almost one-third of people older than sixty experience diminished salivary flow. There are many consequences of xerostomia, including problems tasting food, chewing, swallowing, and speaking clearly. Another consequence is that the saliva in a dry mouth is acidic, which increases the risk of tooth decay. If you think you might have a problem with dry mouth, please contact us for an evaluation and treatment recommendation.
While we all want a bright and healthy smile, we rarely consider the pH of our mouth as a key factor. Yet, your acid-base balance can help prevent tooth decay and erosion damage to enamel for healthier teeth and gums. Consult with oral health care providers at Green Oak Dental for more information on how you can have an optimal saliva pH to improve your oral health.
Call us at 281-358-6330 today to set up an appointment for a comprehensive oral exam and learn more about how we can help you maintain healthy gums and teeth.