How do pH levels affect your oral health?
This month, it’s Sugar Free February. It got us thinking about sugar, what we eat and the effect of food on our mouth.
Not having the correct pH balance can affect both your teeth and gums. In turn, this will start causing dental problems both in the short and long term. Your pH levels are controlled in large part by the foods that you consume in your daily life. The aim of this two part blog is to help you to understand the importance of maintaining a healthy dental routine and what you can do to prevent damage to your teeth.
What can acidic foods do to your teeth?
Tooth decay is likely to occur when the pH of the mouth falls below 5.5. Everyday consumption of sweets, carbohydrates, fizzy drinks and highly acidic foods like lemons, lower the pH level of the mouth. However, at the other end of the scale, when foods like melons are eaten, the pH level then starts to become alkaline. The pH describes how acidic or alkaline an aqueous solution is, but it also helps us to understand and limit the consumption of acidic foods in our diets.
You may be wondering which sugars are most likely to cause tooth decay. The main sugars that are notorious at causing problems are Glucose, Sucrose, Fructose and Maltose. Glucose is generally found in fruits, sugar, milk, pasta and other carbohydrates. Sucrose is found in chocolate, peanut butter, ice cream and sweetened yoghurts. Fructose can be found in canned fruit, Soda/fizzy drinks, juices, honey and salad dressings. Lastly maltose is normally found in milkshakes, bread, brewed beverages, some breakfast cereals and many sweets.
How can you increase the pH in your mouth?
The alkalinity of our mouth can be boosted by eating more vegetables, fruits and nuts on a regular basis. This will help the body to function correctly but also to neutralise the pH levels within our mouth and maintain a healthy level. Products such as bread, alcohol, most grains and fish should be limited as many types have high acid levels which could disrupt the healthy balance.
Saliva helps to neutralise the acid and help to increase the pH to its normal level of approximately 7.0. Once a highly acidic food or drink has been consumed, this can then start to cause the acidity level to rise.
In the next blog, you will find out how you can still enjoy these foods and what practices to follow once a more acidic product has been consumed.
What is oral clearance?
Oral clearance is the average amount of time that it takes for the pH balance to return to normal. We’ve collated a few examples of average clearance times below, which should help you to understand how acidic or alkaline a product is.
Time for oral clearance in popular foods:
- Orange Juice = 30 Minutes
- Pepsi = 13 Minutes
- Sweetened Milk = 6.5 Minutes
- Macaroni = 11 Minutes
- Coffee = 15 Minutes
- Caramels, Toffees and Chocolates = 20-40 Minutes
- Rice = 8 Minutes
- Potatoes = 9 Minutes
- Fresh Fruit and Vegetables = 5 Minutes
- Sugar Chewing Gum = 15 Minutes
- Bread = 15-20 Minutes
Here are a few examples of foods that produce little or no acid. These foods are encouraged to be eaten in their recommended serving sizes, so always check!
Types of food producing little or No Plaque Acid with examples (if any) of food products
- Cheeses = Blue cheese, Brie, Cheddar, Cheese Spread, Cream Cheese, Gouda, Monterey Jack, Mozzarella and Swiss Cheese. (Cheeses are high in fat. reduced or low fat ones are advised)
- Nuts = All types
- Chewing Gum with Xylitol = All types which contain Xylitol
- Cocoa Products = All types
- Protein Foods = Meat, Seafood, Poultry, Eggs
- Fats = Margarine, Butter and oils. Check the recommended serving sizes, choose low fat if possible
Stay tuned for part two, where we will publish our top tips about how to minimise the risk to your teeth and help to keep pH level in the middle at 7.0.
This blog was written by Charlotte Medcalf, Patient Care Coordinator at CFD Chichester. Charlotte and the team can be contacted on 01243 533011 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, please contact our central Patient Care Team on 0333 0162 230 who will be happy to assist you.