Foods and Liquids play an important role in maintaining good oral health. However, certain foods and drinks can severely affect the healthy alkaline environment of the mouth.
As humans have evolved, dietary trends may have shifted from raw and fibrous foods to more processed and refined foods, leading to dental complications such as tooth decay and misalignment of teeth.
How Does Acidic Foods and Drinks Affect an Alkaline Healthy Oral Environment?
Good oral health is dependent on various factors. The kind of foods or liquids consumed contributes to the over-all pH of the oral cavity.
In general, an alkaline oral environment at a pH of 7.2 or above prevents tooth damage and minimizes the chances of tooth demineralization. The critical pH for tooth demineralization and decay is a mouth pH of 5.5.
Certain foods contribute to lowering the pH of the mouth, thereby making the oral environment more acidic. It is observed that when the pH level is less than 7.2, it creates an oxygen-scarce environment leading to dental decay.
Post-consumption of highly acidic sugary foods/drinks, dietary acids are then released from these foods. The acidic waste from the break-down of these foods interacts with the tooth surface which results in tooth caries (cavities).
What Acidic Foods or Liquids Cause Cavities and Should Be Eliminated?
Citrus foods and their effect: Some citrus foods such as oranges and apple cider vinegar will pose a threat to dental health because of their acidic pH in the form of sugar, citric acid and acetic acid and/or acetlyaldehyde.
These foods release high amounts of sugar and citric acids which accelerate the rate of tooth decay. These foods basically attack the enamel causing loss of calcium and phosphate ions, thereby accelerating the demineralization process of the teeth.
Besides, citrus foods can also cause irritation to mouth sores. It is advisable to drink lots of alkaline water at a pH of 9.5 to 10.0 following the consumption of citrus foods to help dilute the citric acid, which can potentially damage the tooth enamel.
Caffeine: Over-consumption of drinks like coffee and black or green tea will lower the pH of the mouth and endanger dental health and cause cancer! I call it your cup of cancer.
Not only does the added sugar in these drinks increase the risk of dental cavities, but these drinks also cause dryness of the oral cavity. This leads to a lowered production of alkalizing sodium bicarbonate saliva leading to a condition known as xerostomia.
Xerostomia results in decreased alkalizing salivary flow. Saliva plays a crucial role in maintaining a normal oral alkaline pH by buffering the acids produced by acidic or sugary foods with sodium bicarbonate, which contributes to minimizing the demineralization process.
Overconsumption of coffee or black or green tea can also cause staining of the teeth
It is highly recommended to drink lots of alkaline water at a pH of 9.5 to 10 if you are drinking coffee or black tea, in order to neutralize their harmful acidic effects.
Sticky Foods: Foods such as sugary acidic rice are considered to be an unhealthy acidic choice.
These types of foods do pose a risk to dental health because of their sticky nature. Sticky foods tend to stick to the tooth surface for a longer period of time which can result in dental problems like caries or cavities.
It is advisable to rinse the mouth well with alkaline water at a pH of 9.5 to 10.0 soon after consuming such foods. A thorough rinsing washes away these sticky foods and protects the enamel of the teeth.
Starchy Foods: Foods like potato chips are high in starch/sugar which can damage the tooth structure. Starchy foods are also responsible for disturbing the alkaline pH balance of the oral cavity leading to a loss of tooth structure through demineralization.
Starchy foods: It is recommended that such foods be limited, if ingested at all. Also, following their consumption, a through rinse is recommended to remove the remnants of these foods. Flossing properly after brushing also helps to removing the starchy foods lodged in the interdental spaces.
Soft/Hard drinks: Carbonated soft/hard drinks such as diet soda are rich in sugar content and carbonic acid which causes the loss of tooth surface, leading to enamel loss and subsequent tooth damage. Besides, carbonated drinks are highly acidic in nature and thus cause an overall drop in oral pH.
It is advisable to drink a cup of alkaline water at a pH of 9.5 to 10.0 after the consumption of such drinks to neutralize their harmful acidic effects.
Sport drinks: Sports drinks are also high in sugar content. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics sports drinks might be beneficial during high strenuous physical activity; however, their frequent consumption is frowned upon in light of their numerous life-threatening metabolic effects consequent upon the hyperglycemia they produce.
Labels should always be read before purchasing these drinks, so as to select those with a low or no sugar content. Try to avoid any food or drink that has a sugar content of over 5 grams per serving.
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1) The pH Miracle revised and updated, 2010. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0446556181/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p1_i0