pH Levels And Tooth Decay

tooth decay

Visiting our orthodontic practice regularly has probably helped you learn everything there is to know about mouths, right? Well, there’s always more than meets the eye when it comes to the little things that we can do to keep our mouths healthy, especially for those of us with obstacles like braces in our way. Even those of us who are diligent brushers and flossers sometimes find ourselves with tooth decay when those braces come off. Here’s one more little snippet of information that may help you.

While it is true that things like flossing, brushing for at least 2 minutes twice a day, visiting your dentist, coming in to our orthodontic practice for regular checkups, using mouthwash, and avoiding sugary foods DO help prevent cavities, there are other things we can also do. New discoveries show that the pH levels in our mouths actually have A LOT more to do with tooth decay than we may realize, and maintaining normal pH levels can be helpful in fighting off cavities and gum disease.

Exactly What Is pH?

To put it simply, pH is a measure of acidity… The lower the pH, the higher the acidity, and the higher the pH, the higher the alkaline levels, or basicity. The pH scale runs from 1 to 14, and in the middle of the scale is the neutral number 7, being most like water.

This is where we want our mouths to be. While we know that sugar feeds the bacteria that produces acids and turns into cavities, it is actually prolonged acidic oral pH that can cause tooth decay and a demineralization of your enamel.

Confused? Let us break this down

Heading off the domino effect means intercepting those pH levels before they get out of hand. Ever heard of a pH test strip? They’re like the sticks you dip into your swimming pool, except they’re for your mouth. You can buy them at your local pharmacy and then try these remedies at home!

  • Fresh Lemon and/or Lime Juice: Lemons and limes are acidic until they react with the sodium bicarbonate released by the pancreas. Upon entering the intestinal tract lemon and lime juice have alkaline properties. However, since both lemons and limes can erode tooth enamel, if you spice up your water with these delicious flavor accents, make sure you drink with a straw placed at the back of your mouth!
  • Take your multivitamins: Take a high quality multivitamin that contains both the essential vitamins and minerals.
  • Eat those leafy greens: Dark green vegetables and “green drinks” contain a high abundance of chlorophyll—a strong detoxifier and immunity–building agent.
  • Avoid refined carbohydrates and sugar: Eliminate all processed foods, and when you opt for grains, make sure they’re “whole.”

Will My Orthodontics Treatment Cause Tooth Decay And How Can I Prevent It?

With orthodontic care, we are adding a foreign object inside your mouth. Whether that is braces or clear aligners, your orthodontic appliances can actually serve as plaque traps. Plaque is basically bacteria that sits on your teeth and can interact with the pH levels in your mouth to increase tooth decay. For example, having metal brackets due to orthodontic care, or braces, placed on your teeth can lead to demineralization of your tooth’s enamel around the area of the brackets. Because of this, it is incredibly important to be mindful of the pH levels and in your mouth by being more mindful of your diet and to make sure that you are continuing to brush regularly, using a fluoridated toothpaste. The fluoride in your toothpaste will help remineralize and strengthen your teeth, ultimately preventing tooth decay.

How Can I Better Prevent Tooth Decay?

It is incredibly important to note that the pH levels in your mouth contribute to tooth decay. Because of this, we need to take various measures to prevent tooth decay from happening in the first place. Steps that you can take to help prevent tooth decay include:

  • Using an ADA-approved fluoridated toothpaste: The fluoride in the toothpaste will strengthen your teeth and help with the prevention of tooth decay.
  • Brushing your teeth: It is critical to brush your teeth twice per day, for approximately 2 minutes each time. You can remember this by thinking of it as a 2×2 rule (2 minutes, 2 times per day).
  • Flossing your teeth: There are bacteria and food particles that can get trapped between your teeth that will need to be flossed out to prevent tooth decay from occurring between your teeth.
  • Spacing out your snacks and snacking less: The important thing to note with snacking is that every time that you put something in your mouth that is not water (neutral pH levels), you are introducing acid into your mouth, which will affect your mouth’s pH levels and contribute to tooth decay. Because of this, it is important to snack less if you can, and to space out your snacking to allow for adequate normalization of the pH levels in your mouth.

Why Should I Snack Less?

Snacking less does not just contribute to better health nutritionally, but it also helps prevent tooth decay. Every time that you eat something that has a pH level that strays from neutral, your mouth’s pH levels will become more acidic and contribute to the demineralization of your teeth which can ultimately result in tooth decay. Whether you consume something that is acidic or basic in its pH levels, the bacteria in your mouth will interact with it in an acidic fashion, which will make the overall pH levels in your mouth more acidic. This acidity in your mouth will heavily contribute to tooth decay, which is why it is so important to snack less overall. By snacking less, you will have less of these “acid attacks” in your mouth, and will help prevent tooth decay tremendously.

If you have any additional questions about how to keep your mouth healthy while we help straighten your smile, set up an appointment to talk to our orthodontists today. Let’s do all we can to prevent tooth decay together!

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