IT’S NOT ONLY what you eat or drink that matters, but how you do it. Drinking a soft drink in one sitting is better than sipping it all day. If you can’t brush your teeth right away after eating sugary foods or drink, rinsing your mouth with water helps neutralize the acid buildup.
Most people are aware that if you eat good food, brush and floss regularly and visit your dentist periodically, your teeth should be in good shape. You may be doing all this, but still getting cavities.
In “It’s All About the pH: Part I” in the last edition of Space Coast Medicine, you learned that acids in the mouth have a significant effect on dental disease. It’s not only what you eat or drink that matters, but how you do it. Drinking a soft drink in one sitting is better than sipping it all day. If you can’t brush your teeth right away after eating sugary foods or drink, rinsing your mouth with water helps neutralize the acid buildup.
• pH is the measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a solution
• Pure water is said to be neutral, pH7.0, on a scale of 1 to 14
• Solutions with a pH less than 7.0 are acidic, more than 7.0 they are alkaline
• In a healthy mouth, resting saliva has a pH 6.5 or greater
• Battery acid has a pH1.0
• Lemon juice pH 2.0
• Coke and Pepsi have a pH2.5, Diet Coke’s pH is 3.3 (regular Coke is 10,000 times more acidic than water) and Florida orange juice is pH 3.4
• Human blood is slightly alkaline, pH 7.3.
At home, the strategy is to minimize the acid attacks caused by the strep mutans bacteria in your mouth. The acid secreted demineralizes the enamel of the tooth and eventually causes dental caries (decay). Excellent oral hygiene, which includes brushing twice a day and flossing once, prevents the buildup of plaque, a sticky biofilm comprised of many bacteria, including strep mutans. Our saliva naturally neutralizes each acid attack in about 20 minutes. A saliva with a higher pH is more protective against acid attacks.
Salivary pH can be checked at your dental office. Patients with higher caries rates often have lower (more acidic) salivary pH. A thorough examination will diagnose existing caries. Their removal and restoration by the dentist will reduce the overall bacterial population in the mouth. A thorough cleaning of the teeth by the dental hygienist will remove plaque and hardened calcified plaque deposits (tartar) above and below the gum. Oral hygiene instruction will help improve the patient’s daily plaque control.
Patients exhibiting dental caries and numerous areas of demineralization will benefit from custom tailored programs. These can include fluoride products, Xylitol therapy and the use of mouth rinses, gels and toothpastes containing remineralization elements such as MI paste.
Xylitol is a natural sweetener that comes from plants and is a normal product in our bodies own glucose metabolism. The strep mutans devour it, and then are no longer able to secrete acid or reproduce. This leads to a reduction of bacteria and an increase in pH. Xylitol products have the bio available minerals to recalcify teeth. Decalcification and early decay can often be halted or even reversed. One needs 4 to 12 grams of Xylitol per day to have a therapeutic benefit. Xylitol products are available in many forms, such as mouth rinses, toothpastes, gum, mints and a granulated of form equivalent to table sugar.
One no longer needs to be the victim of dental disease. Eating well, excellent at home care, and visiting your dental professional will keep you ahead of the game.
Dr. Edwards graduated from the United States Merchant Marine Academy and Temple University School of Dentistry. He completed a general practice residency at the Queens Medical Center in Honolulu. To reach Dr. Edwards you may call 321-751-7775 or visit www.SDICFL.com