Your typical daily intake of beverages probably looks something like this: coffee, water, water, kombucha or tea, diet soft drink, water, water, wine…and water.
Are we close?
If we are, there’s something you need to know. Due to the acid content of each of those daily beverages (outside of water), you’re creating the perfect environment in your mouth for enamel erosion.
How so? Because of how they affect your mouth’s pH balance.
What Is pH Balance?
When we say pH balance, we are referring to the measure of acidity or alkalinity on a scale of 0 to 14 – zero being equivalent to battery acid, 14 being liquid drain cleaner.
If you’re thinking that neither one sounds particularly good, you’re right. The lower the pH, the more acidic something is. The higher it is, the more alkaline.
Teeth need to live in an environment of about a 5.5 pH (or somewhere between black coffee and milk). Below that level, and your teeth begin the process of demineralization.
Above that amount, they actually begin to re-mineralize.
Factors such as food, drink, and age can change your pH levels. So can some medical conditions – Xerostomia, Gastroesophageal reflux, Sjogren’s syndrome, diabetes, and so on. Other things that are important to know: water is at the center of that scale at pH 7, and the normal range for saliva is 6.2-7.6.
Typically, saliva works to counteract the acidity in the food and drinks we consume.
However, when we consume too many acidic things, our saliva can’t keep over. Also, if you use antihistamines or antidepressants, they can impair saliva flow, which diminishes its ability to help with acidity.
What Happens to Your Oral Health When Your Mouth Has a pH Imbalance?
Prolonged periods of low pH can lead to the death of healthy bacteria in your mouth, and cause an overgrowth of cavity-causing bacteria instead. The acids and bacteria in your mouth can cause tooth enamel to demineralize or decay.
If the enamel becomes too thin, it may first lead to tooth sensitivity when consuming hot, cold, or sugary substances, and ultimately to cavities and tooth decay.
On the flip side, science has proven that in dental plaque kept at a 7.0 pH or greater, there is no shift from good bacteria to bad – even during exposure to sugar. This “balanced” pH level can explain why you likely know someone who seems to be able to consume all the sugary food and drinks they want, appear to take little care of their mouth, and doesn’t have a single cavity to show for it. while another friend can be extremely diligent with their diet and oral care, but continues getting cavities.
What Can You Do to Balance Your pH Levels?
There are currently clinical trials going on examining the potential of pH neutralization as a treatment strategy for reversing the bacterial shift and for preventing the bacterial shift toward cavity-causing bacteria in all age groups, including infants.
In the meantime, there are currently a few easy ways you can manage your mouth’s pH balance at home in order to prevent tooth decay.
INCREASE your intake of foods and beverages with a midrange pH. Remember, water has the perfect pH balance. Drink more of it.
Chew sugarless gum, preferably a brand containing xylitol, after you eat or drink acidic food or substances in order to neutralize any imbalance. There are even snack products, like BasicBites chews, on the market now that contain saliva-based nutrients that help you promote healthy intra-oral base-forming and mineralizing capabilities.
DECREASE the amount of sugary and acidy soft drinks and white wine you drink. When you do consume them, quickly follow up with water. Temper the acid in your black coffee by adding dairy – not flavored creamers, but actual dairy.
Also, contrary to what you may believe – wait to brush until your pH balance has had a chance to recover.
EXCHANGE your store-bought mouthwash – which is probably doing more harm than good anyway – for a homemade recipe developed specifically for maintaining a healthy pH balanced mouth. Remember you don’t have to give up everything you love in order to prevent cavities – you just need to be sure and counteract the effects of the acids you do choose to put in your mouth.
SELF-TEST AT HOME with pH test strips. This is a fun way to experiment with the food and drink you consume, and a great way to help monitor for a healthier mouth. You can buy the strips virtually anywhere now for a few dollars.
If you are habitually experiencing hot and cold sensitivity, chronically dealing with bad breath, or seem to be diagnosed with new cavities every time you visit the dentist, you may have a pH imbalance.