In the past few blogs we discussed acid reflux and its effects on the oral cavity. It is important to touch on the topic of ‘ph of the mouth’ as this is a factor which may contribute to the erosion of teeth.
Ph plays an important role in maintaining a healthy mouth and teeth.
Question: What is ph?
Answer: It is a measure acidity and alkalinity.
The lower the ph, the more acidic the environment. The higher the ph, the more alkaline the environment.
The ‘measure’ of ph runs on a scale from 1 – 14: One being the most acidic and 14 the most alkaline. Seven is neutral like water.
The ph level of a healthy mouth is in the range of 6.2-7. If the ph dips below 5.7, there is a tendency for the enamel of the tooth to dissolve or demineralize. As discussed in a previous blog, the enamel is the ‘white’ part of the tooth that you see when you look in your mouth……it is the hardest substance in the body. Please see our blog, “Dental Anatomy 101,” posted on August 5th, 2016 for a more in depth look at the composition of a tooth. Root demineralization occurs when the ph is less than 6.0. This is an important consideration for those who have root recession. When the ph is greater than 5.5, the teeth tend to remineralize.
Biofilm of the Mouth
The oral cavity consists of a biofilm…what is a biofilm? The biofilm of the mouth is made up of a large number or colony of bacteria. Many layers of bacteria are known as a biofilm.
It may seem a bit scary to think that there are colonies of bacteria in our mouths; however, it is quite healthy. Not all bacteria are bad or harmful for us…we need the healthy bacteria to survive. Healthy bacteria help to protect against the unhealthy ones.
Oral bacteria (microorganisms) require a neutral ph (7) for optimal growth. They are sensitive to extreme changes in ph whether acid or alkali. For ‘normal’ functioning within the oral cavity, ph levels must remain within a certain range. If within this range, the overall bacterial ‘quality’ will be favourable to the soft tissues of the mouth and teeth. If the ph decreases below the desired levels, an acidic environment will result and the proportion of healthy to non-healthy bacteria will decrease.
What happens to the oral environment when we eat?
When we eat something, the bacteria in the mouth act on the food and convert it to acids (mainly Lactic Acid). This causes the ph to fall below 5.5 which creates an acidic environment. The acids that are produced demineralize tooth structure (enamel/dentin) which starts the cavitation (decay) process.
Question: What if the food that we eat is acidic in nature?
Answer: The process only gets compounded, because the ph of the mouth is lowered even more.
In addition to the type of food, we also have to consider the frequency at which the acidic food is ingested…the bacteria in the plaque become exposed to an increased frequency of exposure to acidic food which can affect the healthy bacteria.
What does this mean?
The repercussions of a severely acidic environment (as mentioned previously) are:
1) An increase in risk of decay due to increased acids.
2) Increased erosion of the teeth again, due to increased acids.
To Sum Up
If we were to say there was a goal or strategy with respect to the alkaline or acidic nature of the oral cavity, it would be to avoid becoming acidic…And this can be accomplished by decreasing the intake of acidic food and practicing good oral hygiene.
In the next blog we will take a closer look at the bacteria in the plaque and the solution to avoiding an acidic environment…until then.
Yours in good oral health,
Dr. Robert Axelrad, Brampton Dentist
For any dental questions or concerns, please give us a call today @ 905.791.3867…you’ll be glad you did!
Based in Brampton, Ontario, Brampton Dentist Dr. Robert Axelrad has been practicing gentle and pain-free dentistry for over two decades. During this time, he has helped to improve the dental health of countless satisfied patients in Peel Region, Brampton and beyond!
We look forward to seeing you soon.
Dr Axelrad and Staff