Mouth pH: What Is It Supposed to Be and Why Does It Matter?
You no doubt know that propter dental hygiene starts with regular brushing, flossing and rinsing of teeth, preferably with a quality mouthwash. We are told about the trio of good dental care habits from childhood as the best ways to remove food debris that bacteria feed upon. But do you know why they are important?
The reason is that bacteria in your mouth feed on all the food tidbits that get stuck after eating and also on any residual sugar from sweets and sugary drinks. If enough bacteria build up, you don’t just end up with bad breath. You also tinker with your body’s pH level, something that is more significant to your health than you may realize.
The term “pH” is a scientific acronym for “potential hydrogen.” The measurement of a substance or body determines whether it is more alkaline or more acidic. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14, with 0 representing the most acidic substances and 14 representing the most alkaline.
Water, which is neutral, has a pH of 7. Coffee and vinegar, which are more acidic, have a pH of around 2.5 to 5.1. Conversely, seawater and antacids are slightly alkaline and have a pH of just over 7. Baking soda has a pH of about 8.3.
As a general rule, sodas, grains, sugars, alcohols and some meats have a pH of less than 4. At the other end of the scale, most vegetables, fruits, beans, soy and olive oils lean more alkaline.
Why Having a Normal pH Range Is Important
The average pH of a human body is 6.7, and people generally land in the range of 6.2 to 7.6. Doctors consider anyone who falls within that range to be healthy. In terms of dental health, if you fall within the normal range you should enjoy continuous protection for your mouth, teeth and gums.
If the pH in your mouth gets out of balance, it can facilitate bacterial growth. Increased bacteria set the stage for a higher risk of cavities, gum disease and tooth decay. Dental professionals express concern when they find a pH in the mouth below 5.5.
Maintaining a neutral pH level protects the calcium phosphate that makes up the enamel of a tooth. While enamel is the hardest substance in the human body and won't dissolve in water, it is susceptible to corrosion when the pH falls below 5.5. And as enamel wears away, the rate of decay accelerates, resulting in the degradation of tooth structure and ultimately the loss of a tooth or teeth.
Signs That pH is Out of Balance
Your body will give off warning signs if the pH in your mouth is out of balance. Persistent bad breath that won't go away, persistent sensitivity to cold/hot food and drinks, a growing number of cavities are all signs that you have a pH problem.
If you notice the warning signs, it's probably good idea to take a home pH test. You can purchase one of many over-the-counter pH test strips from the drugstore to measure the acidity and alkalinity of your saliva.
No matter which one you choose, the tests are all about the same:
You fill your mouth with saliva
And then place a small amount of your saliva on the pH test strip
The test strip will change colors and give you a rough approximation of your current pH level. All of these tests are inexpensive and take only a few minutes to test your saliva’s pH level.
Getting Things Back in Balance
Don't worry too much if your test strips return a result that shows a bit too acidic or a bit too alkaline. Odds are you can make a few dietary changes to restore your pH balance to a more neutral state. The dietary adjustments are easy to spell out but not always easy to carry out.
First, limit or eliminate soda and other acidic drinks from your diet. If you do choose to continue drinking soda, coffee, etc., consider using a straw. And always rinse your mouth out when you are finished drinking.
Similarly, pay attention to what you eat, especially what you snack on. The healthier and more balanced your diet, the healthier the pH in your mouth.
The most important factor with your diet is limiting sugar intake, including natural and processed sugars. And, again, rinse your mouth out, brush, and even floss after every meal.
Finally, it is a good idea to chew some gum. This increases saliva production, which helps flush your mouth and protect your teeth. Further, there is some evidence that gum containing xylitol can help regulate the pH level in your mouth.
Remember Oral pH Imbalance Can Equal Whole Body pH Imbalance
If your oral pH is out of balance, it's a good bet that your body's pH is also out of balance. This can cause stress and strain on the circulatory, respiratory, digestive, and other systems. by bringing your oral pH back into alignment, you can boost your energy, protect your health, and live a long, healthy life.