pH of the Mouth

image of a pH scale

Did you know that you can help or hinder your dental and overall health simply by regulating the pH of your mouth? pH refers to the amount of acid or alkaline concentrations, and keeping this combination of concentrations at the appropriate level can actually help prevent disease, dental or otherwise. The mouth, in particular, is the means by which most of the body’s nutrients enter the body. Therefore, regulating the pH of the mouth is essential to properly regulate the body’s pH levels.

pH is measured on a scale from 0 to 14, with 0 representing the highest acid concentration and 14 representing the highest alkaline concentration. The middle of the scale, 7.0, represents neutral. Water has a pH of 7.00, meaning that it is entirely neutral. Other substances can be almost neutral, however no other substance is purely neutral in the way that water is.

Within this pH scale of acidity and alkalinity, healthy saliva should generally be slightly acidic and fall between a 5.6 and a 7.9. When saliva exceeds or falls below this range, various health complications can occur. Consider that the body is mostly comprised of water, which is a neutral substance. If the body falls too far out of the semi-neutral zone, which is approximately a pH level of 7.4, the entire chemical balance shifts and this is where problems can develop.

If salvia is too acidic, meaning it drops below 7.0, then it causes an oxygen-deprived environment that increases the risk for tooth demineralization, cavities, and tooth decay. This risk increases because bacteria thrive in this type of environment. It is also important to note that foods containing sucrose, glucose, fructose, lactose, and starches provide food for the bacteria, allowing them to survive and reproduce.

If the saliva has a high concentration of alkaline, then there will be other ailments that can occur, although they are not all necessarily dental in nature. If the body has too much alkaline, then metabolic alkalosis occurs which can cause alcohol abuse, adrenal disease, excess vomiting, abuse of diuretics, and laxative abuse. It has also be found that saliva with a high alkaline concentration can also cause enamel erosion and cavities as well.

There are some things you can do in order to regulate the pH levels in your mouth to prevent them from becoming overly acidic or alkaline. The first is to be aware of what you are eating. Sugary foods, in particular, tend to have a higher acid content. Other things like fruits, coffee, wine, and soft drinks are also higher in acidic content.

Generally speaking, the majority of pH regulation pertains to neutralizing these acidic foods. There are a few ways to accomplish this. The first is by drinking water after ingesting these substances to rinse them out of your mouth and restore the pH level to neutral. Another way is to neutralize by eating alkaline substances such as sweet corn, rice, or shrimp. Finally, certain types of cheeses can rebalance pH levels, so finishing your meal with a slice of cheese could help neutralize the acid.