Does the pH of Your Mouth Matter?

Posted on 07/31/2019

Does the pH of Your Mouth Matter?Did you know that the pH level of your mouth affects the health of your teeth and gums? While it is likely that you've heard about the pH level of your body affecting your health, it's likely you may have never considered that the pH levels of your mouth have an affect on your health as well. Studies show that lower, or more acidic, pH levels are associated with being at greater risk for serious health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Similarly, higher pH levels, or more alkaline, are connected to improvements in memory and cognition, reduced pain, and lower risk of hypertension (high blood pressure) and stroke.

So how is pH connected to dental health? The pH level in the mouth directly affects the health of our teeth and gums, and the best way to maintain a healthy pH level in your mouth is through the foods you eat. By regulating the pH in your mouth will help reduce the bacteria in your mouth, thereby reducing your risk of cavities, gum disease and tooth decay. Bacteria feed off sugars that are commonly found in sucrose, or table sugar. Foods such as candies, sodas, pastas, animal proteins and breads, even natural fruits all give bacteria in the mouth more to feed off and produce lactic acids which cause tooth decay.

Tooth Decay

One way tooth decay can occur is when the pH level in the mouth begins to fall below 5.5. The neutral pH level is 7.0, so this will drop when acidic foods and drinks are consumed. When the mouth is exposed to long periods of low pH, it allows cavity causing bacteria to grow and develop.

While it is well known that sugar is bad for your teeth, it's the exposure to sugars that can cause the pH of the dental plaque below a healthy level. If one can keep their dental plaque at a level of 7.0 or greater however, you will not be at risk for cavity causing bacteria, even when exposed to sugars.

The Importance of pH Balance

Maintaining a healthy pH balance in the mouth allows for a healthy balance of good and bad bacteria. The good bacteria, known as probiotics, aid in the digestion of food and are completely harmless. Probiotics as well as other good bacteria actually aid in the protection of our teeth and gums.

Some foods, such as sugary beverages or snacks, increase the acidity of the mouth and the pH can change dramatically with the types of foods we eat. Highly acidic foods, such as lemons, also lower the pH, while other foods, like melons will actually increase the pH.

Saliva helps to neutralize the acids, but acidic foods can also increase the acidity of saliva. If the pH does not neutralize quickly, it may give the bad bacteria an opportunity to deteriorate the teeth and gums, leading to cavities or potentially, the need for a root canal treatment.

How You Can Increase Your Alkalinity

If you want to keep a healthy pH in your mouth, the first step is to increase alkalinity, and this can be done simply by maintaining an alkaline friendly diet. Here's some tips to help you get started:

  1. Eat More Vegetables

    This one is simple; vegetables are not only healthy for your body, but for your general dental health as well! Vegetables contain important vitamins and minerals to help increase alkalinity and fight off bacteria and infections. Experts say that the more vibrant the color of the vegetable, the more beneficial it is, so some good choices are bell peppers, kale, asparagus, spinach, broccoli and green beans

  2. Cut Back on Breads

    Unfortunately, most breads and grains fall under the more acidic range of foods. Limiting breads can be the hardest part of any diet, but there are healthier options such as almond flour breads, which are slightly alkaline.

  3. More Beans & Seeds

    Many beans are high in alkaline such as soy, navy and lima beans. Other good options include caraway, cumin, fennel and sesame seeds

  4. Be Careful With Artificial Sweeteners

    Alternatives to sugar are often very acidic such as honey, xylitol and beet sugar. You might be safest sticking with Stevia as it's actually high in alkaline

  5. Avoid Condiments

    Sadly, condiments like ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, miso and peanut butter (even organic) are highly acidic. Of course, it's pretty difficult to simply decide to eat a hot dog or burger plain, you can offset the acidity of condiments with other alkaline foods. Some good choices are cantaloupe, mango, melons, apples or carrots

  6. Limit Alcohol, Dairy and Coffee

    Wine, cheese and coffee are all very acidic. While these can be difficult to give up, you may want to consider at least simply reducing your intake of these items.

Checking Your pH Levels

There's a couple of ways you can test the pH levels of your mouth. Hydrion pH test paper is commonly used to test your saliva at home and can be purchased from your local health food store, but you can also get your pH tested by a dentist at our office. It's best to test your pH levels first thing in the morning before eating or drinking anything. If you find that your levels are low, just know that it is never too late to make the necessary changes to bring it up to a healthy level.

Contact Furumoto Dentistry

If you have any further questions or concerns about pH or anything relating to dental health, contact our team today! Our dentists at Furumoto Dentistry of Diamond Bar are happy to answer any questions you may have regarding your oral health and can help you to better understand what you need to know about the pH levels of your mouth.