A natural dentist cautions against sour tasting, tart candies, like Warheads or Sour Patch Kids loaded with food acids.
Lemon juice and vinegar, similarly make your mouth pucker. and are food acids too. Your favorite sodas contain the very same acids for flavoring. All of these, candies, lemon juice, vinegar and sodas can cause your teeth to dissolve just due to the low pH acidic content. Since the tooth decay threshold starts at it about 5.5 pH it is important to avoid anything that will create a sustained low pH bath for your teeth. Decay (cavity formation) accelerates at lower pH numbers, so being selective in your choice of foods has a huge effect on how many cavities you get. The super sour candies with tantalizing tastes sizzle in your mouth as your teeth dissolve.
What Is An Acid?
From a chemistry viewpoint acids can supply or give off a proton or hydrogen ion. All right, hang on, I can see your eyes are rolling already. Stick with me for a few moments and you’ll understand how critically important this is to keeping your teeth for a lifetime. It will keep the rest of your body on track for good health as well.
The Acid-Base Scale
You might have seen this scale before. It goes from an extreme on one end of dangerously corrosive drain cleaners to equally dangerous battery acids on the other. Strong bases can dissolve skin and strong acids can dissolve metals.
Fortunately, most of the foods you’re eating are not at the extreme ends of the range, thank goodness. But the foods we do eat all have their own acid or base tendencies. The more acid the foods are, the greater our chances are of weakening our teeth and suffering the consequences. So how do we know?
Acids And Bases Can Be Measured.
Tap water is close to neutral in most cases and has a measure of about seven on the pH scale, neither acid nor base. Strong acids may have a pH of zero and strong bases, the opposite of an acid, may have a pH of 14. There is an inexpensive way to do your own research. You can test for acidity by using strips called litmus paper. Acids will turn blue litmus paper red. Bases will turn red litmus paper blue. Litmus paper is limited, however, to telling us a whether a food is either acid or base, red or blue. That still doesn’t help us to figure out where the things we eat fit into the range on the pH chart. Fortunately there is a solution to our problem.
pH Test Paper To The Rescue- It’s Cheap And Readily Available
Another way to evaluate foods is to use pH test paper which corresponds to the scale we looked at earlier. This type of test paper, that measures how acidic or how basic a food is, can be obtained online, or from your pharmacist. The test paper is available in several different ranges. To test strong solutions such as lemon juice, vinegar and your favorite sodas you will need a wide range pH paper that measures from 0 to 13 pH.
If you want to test your own saliva and see how it is affected more subtlely by the food you eat and the beverages you drink, get a narrower range pH paper from 4 to 9 pH.
The saliva typically ranges from 6.5 down to as low as 5.5 pH. And since tooth decay starts at about 5.5 pH it is important to push the pH higher if at all possible, not drive it lower.
Many of my patients that have a more basic pH, up to 7.5, are almost decay free, and have been for years. Much of that is based upon what they eat and what they avoid. It’s a matter of choices.
How To Test Your Own Saliva pH
Test your normal saliva pH, it’s easy. It’s best to do it at least a couple of hours after eating to minimize food influences. In my office, I have you carefully spit into a plastic cup. Then I will hand you a piece of pH paper, about an inch and a half long, and have you moisten it in your saliva. Then we will compare the color of the moistened pH paper to the scale on the dispenser.
If you have a very low pH reading, you may be more prone to decay. This may require extra effort on your part with both diet changes and home care methods to avoid decay in the future.
You Can Test The Foods You Eat As Well.
It’s easy to test the pH of liquid foods by moistening the pH paper strip directly and comparing with the colors on the dispenser. Another way to test the effect of acid foods is to wait until you’ve eaten some and then test your saliva several minutes later. This way you can test solid foods as well.
Sugar Free Foods Can Rase Your Saliva pH
An interesting test might be to check your saliva after having not eaten for several hours. And then eat something that contains no sugar such as a saltine type cracker. Then wait about 10 minutes and check your saliva pH again. If you’re like most people, you’ll see a move towards the acid side of the scale, a lower pH number. This is because bacteria are at work.
As carbohydrates begin the digestion process in your mouth they are converted (by amylase enzymes) from starches to sugars which bacteria love. The bacteria in turn digest the sugars and convert them to acids. And the acids can alter the pH readings of your saliva, driving them lower.
When the pH of your saliva drops to 5.5 or lower, and you listen carefully, you can virtually hear your teeth fizzing as they dissolve.