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The Chemistry of Healthy Teeth

November 11, 2021by Cornelius Dentistry
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Brushing and flossing are the basics of good oral hygiene, but there’s more to a healthy smile. Keeping your mouth less acidic, which will protect your tooth enamel and decrease tooth decay will go a long way to help your mouth stay healthy and reduce your need for dental care. Keeping your pH balanced is the way to go.

What is the pH scale?

There are two terms you need to understand, before we talk about the scale. Acid and base or alkaline. You are probably more familiar with acids relating to food, because if you eat too much acid, you need to take an Antacid (“anti-acid”). The opposite of acid is alkaline or basic. The scale that measures these levels is called the pH scale. The initials pH stand for potential Hydrogen. Without going into a lot of chemistry, high hydrogen numbers are not good. On the pH scale, the highest hydrogen concentration is 0.

The pH scale goes from 0 (highest acid) to 14 (highest alkaline). Here’s an idea of where various substances fall on the pH scale:

  • Water has a pH of 7 (Neutral, neither acidic nor basic)
  • Orange Juice has a pH of 3.3-4.2 (Mildly acidic)
  • Stomach acid has a pH of 1.5-2.5 (Highly acidic)
  • Soap has a pH of 9-10 (Mildly basic)

Why Do We Need to Know This?

High hydrogen (acidity) in the mouth and human body bring about problems and poor health.

Specifically, in the mouth, acidic foods and drinks can wear away at the enamel on your teeth, exposing your teeth to cracking and fissures, which then makes nice homes for bacteria that causes cavities and infection.

What Can We Do To Prevent This From Happening?

Saliva is a great defense mechanism against acid. It washes away food residue and keeps our oral pH balanced. We can help our saliva do its job by avoiding snacking on and drinking sugary foods and beverages. Have sweet foods and drinks at meal time and avoid them between meals.

Limiting acidic drinks, citrus and citrus-flavored, carbonated or sour drinks is one way you can protect your teeth. Orange juice, lemonade, limeade all are very high in acid, so rather than daily, have those juices as a special treat. Always follow a citrus drink with water to dilute the acidity in your mouth.

Watch out for highly sour candies too. Some of them rival battery acid, so be super careful and make them a rare treat.

Some foods should not be eaten alone, such as tomatoes and citrus fruits. Eat them with a meal. Dried fruits (raisins, dates, apricots, prunes, etc.) are sticky, so their residue sticks to your teeth long after you have eaten them. That sticky stuff provides a good meal for bacteria that will produce more acid which causes further erosion in the tooth enamel.

You can find more information about protecting your teeth by clicking here. But the best way you can protect your teeth is by visiting your dentist regularly. Contact us today to set an appointment, so that you can smile with confidence.

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