You might be health conscious, eating carefully and exercising regularly. You may have started a new sport or be following a new diet. This may get you looking and feeling good but the same may not be so for your teeth.
Known to cause cavities, sugar can be very bad for your teeth, but there is more to oral health than being wary of sugar intake. The state of our mouths affects, and is affected by, the rest of our bodies.
In very simple terms, sugar is not the only oral enemy; acid is. In fact, sugar is bad for our teeth because it is broken down by the bacteria in our plaque to form acid which then demineralizes the enamel in our teeth.
A hard crystal structure made of phosphates and calcium called the enamel shell is present in our teeth. When enamel is placed in an acidic environment of pH 5.5 or less, it demineralizes. (A neutral pH is 7; an acidic pH is anything from under 7 to zero). Demineralization or the leaching out of phosphate and calcium from the enamel shell, it becomes hollow and cavity will be formed.
Your mouth is teeth in a saliva bath, and the pH of this bath is affected by what you consume and the pH of your blood. Any food or drink such as lemons are acidic and therefore considered unhealthy for your teeth since it can have an alkalizing effect to the blood. Most people will know that alkalizing food is good. A diet of fruit, vegetables and nuts will have an alkalizing effect to your blood and therefore help you be very healthy. But the acids in many of them will have a detrimental affect on your teeth. For example, apple cider vinegar is a very popular beverage recommended by most nutritionists due to the powerful alkalizing effects to the blood. However it is very acidic when you drink it which means that your teeth will demineralize rapidly. Many freshly squeezed juices are acidic, and apple juice is more acidic than orange juice.
Swimmers and athletes involved in endurance sports are the most at risk when it comes to acid breakdown of teeth. Research shows that enamel acid erosion is much higher in this demographic – the theory is that a very acidic saliva bath in the mouth is created from a combination of dehydration, acidic energy drinks and lactic acid build-up in the bloodstream.
To preserve the integrity of your teeth throughout a healthy and long life you need be mindful of the acidic levels in your mouth. Minimize or eliminate acidifying and acidic foods such as sugar and alcohol. Continue your intake of alkalizing foods and beverages even if they are acidic, and counteract the detrimental effects by neutralizing the acids with the following methods: use still mineral water or distilled water to wash your moouth, always go for sugar-free chewing gum and last but not least, use a mouth rinse that is neutral flouride.
It is also important NOT to brush for at least 30 minutes after an acidic meal or drink because any excessive abrasion on a weaker enamel will further break it down even more.
So, remember this saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away but keeps your dentist very worried”.
Dr. Bernard Siew
D has a particular interest in cosmetic dentistry. With nearly 20 years experience, his expertise includes complete smile makeovers, management of excessively worn teeth, oral rehabilitation and implant prosthodontics, including crowns, bridges and dentures