Sugar, Acid, and Teeth

Last Friday, your “SmilesPlus” dentist attended a lecture given by a member of the faculty from the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry. In an address to medical professionals at the Stanford School of Medicine, the lecturer said that “Science now suggests it is pH, rather than sugar, that causes pathologic shifts of biofilms, and that saliva plays a major role in the maintenance of optimal oral health.”

What one can learn from this is that, while keeping saliva at a normal pH of 7.0 can significantly reduce the risk of cavities, reduction in saliva flow, or dry mouth, will reduce pH.

What’s bad for your mouth’s pH:

  • Consumption of diuretics such as caffeine and alcohol dry the mouth and reduce pH.
  • Cigarette or Marijuana smoke will also reduce saliva flow, and hence lower pH.
  • Medications: Furthermore, a long list of commonly used antihistamines, anti-inflammatories, antidepressants, antimicrobials, NSAIDS, most hypertension medicines, and a hot of others also reduce salivary flow and lower pH.  If you must take such medications, try to double up on your water consumption, and be sure to keep up with your regular dental checkups to avoid or catch early signs of dental cavities.

What’s good for your mouth’s pH:

  • Drinking water frequently will help to avoid dehydration and dry-mouth syndrome.
  • Increasing arginine-rich proteins in the diet has been shown to increase plaque pH. Some examples of commonly consumed Arginine-rich proteins are a variety of nuts (peanuts, almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios), seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, squash), coconut, kidney beans, soybeans, watermelon and tuna.
  • Xylitol: chewing Xylitol gums and mints and using toothpaste containing Xylitol after meals can help keep a neutral pH level in the mouth. Xylitol is a natural sweetener made from fibrous parts of plants.

The bottom line? Think about drinking plenty of water and chewing Xylitol containing gum after your next coffee or lunch break—to bring your mouth’s pH up to a healthy level.

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