Every time you eat carbohydrates, millions of bacteria in your mouth shout for joy as they snack on the food that you are eating.
There’s just one small problem: after they’re done eating: they need to use the restroom. Since there’s no toilet in your mouth, they just go on your teeth. All of this acidic waste can start to dissolve your teeth. Luckily, our saliva protects our teeth by gradually clearing out the acid and laying down new calcium to repair the patches of teeth that got dissolved.
It can be hard to visualize what exactly happens in your mouth every time you eat or drink. To understand it better, here are some facts you need to know:
– pH is a measure of how acidic (or basic) something is. The more acidic something is, the lower the pH, and the more harmful it is to our teeth.
– The pH of our saliva is usually right around 7.1. This is slightly basic (as opposed to acidic.) At this pH our teeth are safe, happy, and healthy.
– When we eat carbohydrates or sugars, the plaque (BACTERIA) on our teeth munch on them as well and produce an acidic by-product. This acid lowers the pH in our mouth.
– If the pH drops below 5.5, our teeth start dissolving. Yes, DISSOLVING!
What can you do to prevent damage to your teeth when you eat or drink sugary or refined carbs?
Follow these suggestions:
1 – Each time you eat carbohydrates, your pH can drop into the area where teeth start dissolving. If you eat enough times during the day, you’ll start to permanently destroy part of your tooth. This is called a cavity. Reduce the number of time you consume fermentable carbs.
2 – If you snack on foods that are healthy for your teeth, you are much less likely to dissolve your teeth by creating an acidic environment in your mouth. For example, if you were to eat some cheese, the probably wouldn’t drop much below 7, giving your teeth something to smile about! If you drink Coca-Cola, which is a very acidic drink, you will immediately drop the pH in your mouth and it will stay down there due to the sugar in Coke.
3 – If you drink some fruit punch, your saliva can quickly rinse the sugar from the fruit punch away and return the pH of your mouth to normal. However, if you eat Oreo cookies, it will take longer because the Oreos can get stuck up in the grooves on the chewing surface of your teeth. As long as the Oreo stays stuck in your teeth, it will be feeding the bacteria and they’ll create acid that will dissolve your teeth.
4 – If you never or seldom brush your teeth, the bacteria can create a thick layer of plaque on your teeth. Since it’s hard for your saliva to neutralize acid through a thick layer of plaque, you’ll spend a lot more time below a pH of 5.5 if you don’t brush your teeth everyday to remove the plaque. Result: cavities.
5 – If you don’t have much saliva, the sugar will stick around in your mouth longer because it won’t get rinsed away. People with dry mouth get more cavities for this one reason. If you find that your mouth is dry all of the time, get professional help; there are a number of ways to combat the problem.
Remember: Every time you eat something with carbohydrates, you feed the bacteria in your mouth. This causes them to produce acid which dissolves your teeth. Eventually, your body can restore order to your mouth by rinsing away the acid with saliva. After the acid is rinsed away, your saliva repairs your teeth. However, if you keep dropping the pH below 5.5, your saliva might not have enough time to repair your teeth and you could get a cavity.