Tooth Decay: What’s pH got to do with it? The Final Wrap Up (For Now)
(Wrapping up tooth decay, that is.)
Everything we love to eat and drink seems to be acidic- coffee, wine, soda pop, fruit, energy drinks, juice, the list goes on and on. Why is this important when discussing tooth decay? Tooth decay is a pH disease! Let’s review chemistry just a little bit. There’s a scale that measures how acidic, neutral or basic liquids are.
This scale is called the pH scale and runs from 1 to 14, with 7 being neutral – think tap water.
Liquids that measure from 1 to 6.9 on the pH scale are acidic- think soda pop, and 7.1 to 14 are basic- think baking soda. Tooth decay is a pH disease. When the pH of your mouth goes below 5.5, the minerals that make up your teeth flow OUT of your teeth, into your saliva, and then when the pH goes above 5.5 they flow back in. Ebbing and flowing all day. Your saliva is full of minerals. As we eat, the bacteria excrete acid (remember?) and drop the pH even further. If you snack frequently, your saliva never gets your mouth back up above 5.5. (Do you sip your latte or soda pop while you work at your desk? Did you know many bottled waters have a low pH? If you have a dry mouth, due to medications or other diseases, you have less minerals flowing back into your teeth and are much more prone to tooth decay. Do you suck on hard candies because of your dry mouth?) When the pH stays low, it kills off the good bacteria so the bad bacteria thrive, making more bad bacteria babies. The decay bacteria excrete more acid and dissolve your teeth, creating the perfect environment for cavities. Tooth Decay is a pH disease.
Tooth decay needs a combination of these risk factor criteria:
1. Acidic environment
2. Carbohydrates/frequent snacking
3. Decay bacteria
4. Poor oral hygiene- leaving plaque biofilm behind, around, in between and/or under
5. Low saliva flow- often from mouth breathing or medications
6. Braces, retainers dentures, mouth guards, dental appliances
7. Acid Reflux or other systemic diseases or illnesses
So, what to do to stop decay for you? Quick review:
The very best predictor of future decay is having current decay in your mouth! It’s contagious: parents, childcare workers, grandparents, and even fellow playmates transfer bacteria. Have your dental office measure your tooth decay bacterial load. And be sure they assess your risk factors.
Improve your oral hygiene. Get that electric toothbrush and use it twice a day. My favorite tooth brush is still the 30 Second Smile tooth brush. It is like a car wash for your mouth. It cleans better, faster and more thoroughly. Change the brush heads every three months. If you have a manual toothbrush- DRY brush- no toothpaste. Brush until your teeth feel clean and taste clean to your tongue, then and only then, use a pea sized amount of toothpaste. Brush, spit, don’t rinse. Leave the toothpaste on your teeth. (Close the toilet seat before flushing, it affects and infects your tooth brush and your oral health! And yes, it is what you are thinking.)
|Keep ’em clean so they can’t move in! From Pinterest|
Clean in between your teeth. That’s where disease starts. See my previous article on Conquering Cavities in Kids.
Clean your tongue. ‘Nuff said!
Kill the decay bacteria with rinses that have a pH above 7.1. Daily baking soda and water swishes will raise the pH in your mouth to 9, and shock and kill the bad bacteria. Carifree rinses will do the same thing, and they include xylitol. ( See xylitol and my “Mouth Magic” article.) Remember, strive for five servings of xylitol a day. It will reduce the plaque bacterial biofilm buildup on your teeth! Imagine having less plaque on your teeth just by eating xylitol.
Be aware of what goes into your mouth. (Do you know the pH of your favorite mouth wash? If not – find out!) Rinse with water after you eat or drink something acidic. It is all about the pH of your mouth.
See your dental hygienist every three months for preventive care appointments. Yes, I realize your insurance only covers “cleanings” every six months. Your insurance company is not living with your teeth, you are. If you prevent even one cavity, look at all the time and money you save! And, aren’t your teeth worth it? You don’t need to see the dentist each time. Your dental hygienist is your preventive oral hygiene coach. He or she will help you and your mouth to become healthy. Have them check your saliva flow and the pH of your saliva.
|MI Paste website|
Remineralize your teeth with fluoride, calcium and phosphate. Your dental office can prescribe this for you, or you can order MI Paste from Amazon.com. In Europe, MI paste is also called Tooth Mousse. Also, in Europe, stronger fluoride toothpaste such as Elmex is available without a prescription but it’s behind the pharmacy counter, so ask for it! Again, remineralize with products that have a higher pH.
If you have other health issues, work with your physician to reduce and eliminate these. Change medications if possible to reduce dry mouth. Look at my Elixer Fixer blog post for hints on addressing dry mouth. And close your mouth when you breathe. Breathe through your nose. This helps bring up the pH in your mouth, eliminates dry mouth and remineralizes your teeth. This is so important we will address this in a future blog post.
It is time to be cavity free, FOREVER! Yes, you can! You now have the tools, the know-how and a recipe for success. This wraps up our tooth decay discussion, for now. If there is any new research or other information, I’ll bring it up in a future blog. Hopefully I have opened your eyes to the possibility of never having another cavity, ever. Tooth decay is truly optional.
Everyone smiles in the same language. Author unknown
Smile with your lips, smile with your eyes, smile with your heart and your soul and your life. Terri Guillemets
Any questions or comments? I’d love to hear what you think! Comment on this post or find me on Facebook- facebook.com/queenofdentalhygiene!
Til next week, keep smiling!