At PV Dentistry, the #1 focus of our practice is: YOUR HEALTH!!
The mouth is the gateway to the body. Everything we eat and drink impacts our health.
The mouth is like a petri dish. While genetics play a huge role in whether we were lucky enough to inherit strong teeth or weak enamel, none of us can change who our parents are. But our habits create the conditions that either wreak havoc in our mouth (and body) or keep us in great health.
Acids, sugars, food, and drink constantly damage our teeth on a microscopic level. Some habits like smoking, tobacco use, chronic alcohol use, etc. negatively impact not only the tissues in our mouth, but the entire body as well.
pH is the measure of acid vs base in a given environment. It is measured on a scale of 1 to 14, with 7 being considered neutral. The lower the number, the more acidic. A pH level of 1 is extremely acidic. A pH level of 14 is extremely alkaline (aka "base"). Most of the body generally functions best at a pH of 7.4, and the body works hard to keep it that way. But this varies, depending on the body location. For example, our stomach is designed to have a pH of 1 to 3.5. Many foods and especially beverages will contain a very low, or acidic pH, and that is what does the most damage to our teeth.
In the mouth, we want the normal pH level to hover at neutral, with a range of 6.7 to 7.3. If we allow our mouth to be subjected to a lower and more acidic pH, we put our teeth in an environment that is not as healthy. An acidic environment in the mouth can lead to a number of problems, like decay, erosion, and gum disease.
Let's talk about some of the things that impact the pH level of your mouth.
The Good: Water (pH 7), Herbal or Green Tea (pH 7-10)
The Bad: Milk (pH 6.5), Beer (pH 4), Coffee (pH 4)
The Ugly: Soda (pH 2.5), Fruit Juice (pH 2-4), Energy Drinks (pH 3)
You can look up the pH level of your favorite beverage, and while there may be some beneficial aspects to things like juice or milk, they contain sugars which don't help your teeth. They also make your mouth more acidic.
The pH of food is varied, and the worst of the worst are foods that contain simple carbs or sugar: (candy, sweets, chips, etc.). Colorful vegetables typically are the best for your mouth. But you don't want to leave little bits of food behind in your mouth, which is one of the reasons it is important to be thorough in keeping teeth clean.
Illicit Drug Use
This almost universally will lower the pH of your mouth. Chronic marijuana use causes a dry mouth, and a dry mouth is one of the worst things for the pH level! Smoking is terrible for the health of your teeth and gums. Methamphetamine and other stimulants will do major damage to your mouth. (Do a google search for "meth mouth" and prepare to be shocked.)
It turns out that most prescribed medications will cause a dry mouth, thus leading to a more acidic pH. Some of the common ones include those for hypertension (blood pressure), diabetes, heart conditions, and cholesterol.
Sleep Apnea and Mouth Breathing
Mouth breathing whether at night or during the day will dry out your mouth and lower the pH, making it more acidic. If you wear a sleep apnea device, this can cause the same problem.
Radiation, Sjogren's disease, Chemotherapy
Sjogren's disease is an autoimmune disorder which attacks your own saliva glands and tear ducts. Radiation as a treatment for cancer is only done in a focused area, so normally this wouldn't affect your mouth. But when it is done in the head or neck region, it possibly can permanently damage the saliva glands. Chemotherapy is a prescribed medication, but deserves special mention, because this also can severely affect saliva flow. There are other disorders and diseases that can affect the normal flow of saliva. Saliva is one of the most important things that helps buffer the acids in our mouth, and neutralize your mouth's pH level.
If you suffer from a chronic condition that causes your mouth to be dry, or you are on prescribed medication, then you should be proactive in making sure you PREVENT problems before they occur.
Plenty of Water
One of the most important things you can do is drink plenty of water. This will help eliminate acids. Proper oral hygiene is critical, including brushing at least twice a day and flossing with proper technique.
This is a naturally occurring element that was discovered in ground water. Too much fluoride is a bad thing, but the proper amount helps prevent decay and is important in the battle against the bad decay-causing bacteria that thrive in an acidic environment. If you are on a medication that lowers the pH of your mouth, you should get a fluoride varnish with EVERY cleaning in the areas that are most vulnerable, in-between your teeth and in the grooves of your molars. Sometimes a prescription level fluoride toothpaste would be in your best interest as well.
This is a miracle substance and very crucial to replacing the calcium and phosphate for anyone who suffers from chronic dry-mouth conditions. This can only be purchased from your dentist, and we always carry it at PV Dentistry.
Improve your diet & habits
While this may go without saying, when you feel better—your health is better. Lowering your stress, getting enough sleep, and the proper amount of exercise will improve the pH of your mouth!
For more information, please give me a call!
Written by: Harold Henderson, DDS April 12, 2019