In an effort to lead a healthier lifestyle, you may consider yourself very mindful about what you put in your mouth. Many people watch their calories and try to load more fruits and vegetables onto their plates throughout the week. But when it comes to your teeth, you may be surprised at the beverages that may be leading you straight toward cavities.
Historically, the common school of thought has been that it is sugar that causes cavities. While this is true on some level, the theory is not necessarily as direct as some may imagine. It is not the sugar itself that causes cavities, but the acidic byproduct that is deposited by the oral bacteria that feed on sugar.
Acid and Enamel Don’t Mix
The oral environment thrives within a very delicate balance. Acidity leads to problems like cavities and gum disease. This condition is measured on the pH scale, of which the range is 0 to 14. A low number indicates higher acidity. For instance, battery acid has a pH of 0. Water has a pH of 7. Landing squarely in the middle of the scale, this means that water is neutral and will not damage teeth. Research has demonstrated that enamel erodes at a pH of 5.5, and dentin at 6.5, because dentin is a softer material than enamel.
When you consider the pH scale, and the fact that enamel can erode at 5.5, you become more mindful of what you put in your mouth. Some of the primary sources of acidity today are soda products; not because of the sugar content, but because of ingredients such as ascorbic acid or citric acid. Ingredients such as these are not relegated only to soda, but to other carbonated beverages and also to foods we may consider “healthy” alternatives to sugary drinks. For instance, the non-carbonated sports drink, Gatorade fruit punch flavor has a pH that is lower than 4.
Must you avoid all processed foods in order to protect your teeth? Not necessarily. Good habits to create include minimizing the intake of acidic foods and beverages, and to brush or rinse after snacks and meals.
Our team plays a supportive role in helping you enjoy optimal oral health. Contact us to schedule your exam and cleaning.