The Importance of Restoring the pH Balance in Your Mouth
You may have heard of pH balance concerning many areas of the body - like skin health or vaginal health. But did you know that your mouth is home to an oral microbiome that is largely defined by its pH balance? The pH balance of the mouth is critical to your oral health and overall wellbeing.
PH balance stands for ‘potential for hydrogen’ and refers to the acid-basic ratio of an environment or substance. The pH balance influences the overall balance of the bacteria in the mouth. More acidic, low pH levels in the mouth have been linked to health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. On the other hand, higher pH levels or alkaline pH are linked to enhanced cognitive ability and memory, along with fewer incidents of hypertension, pain, and stroke.
Achieving pH balance in the mouth helps reduce harmful bacteria, which decreases tooth decay, cavities, gum inflammation, and bad breath. To achieve your optimal health, it’s important to pay attention to your oral pH balance.
PH levels occur in a spectrum, from alkaline to acidic. The most alkaline pH level is 14, while the most acidic is 0. Pure water is a 7, being the most balanced substance in terms of pH. To give an idea of where other substances fall on the pH spectrum, vinegar has a highly acidic pH level below 7, while antacids are alkaline and have a level above 7.
Saliva is the most common way to test the pH level of the mouth. Saliva typically has a pH level of between 6.2-7.6. This range is considered healthy, while levels that are lower may indicate a pH level that is too acidic, and a level above 7.6 may indicate a mouth that is too alkaline. As stated previously, a highly acidic salivary pH level is linked to health issues from dental decay to heart disease.
Salivary testing is a common and fairly accurate way to test the pH level of your mouth. To assess the pH level of your saliva, your dentist can use a unique tool called a pH meter. You can also test your salivary pH from the comfort of home with convenient at-home test kits. These kits are available online and in-store at most pharmacies.
PH test kits contain multiple testing strips to check your salivary pH level. To test your salivary pH using test strips, follow these simple steps:
- Abstain from food and drink for 2 hours before testing so that you get an accurate reading
- When ready to test, allow your saliva to pool in your mouth, then swallow or spit it out.
- Fill the mouth with saliva again, and then place a small amount of it onto the test strip in the area indicated.
- Wait as directed on the box - the test strip patches will change color depending on the acidity of your salivary pH.
- Use the box or guide to match the color of the strip to the pH level.
Acidic Salivary pH
An acidic salivary pH falls below 6. Depending on several factors like age, diet, and drink consumption, the pH level of the mouth can dip below 6. When the pH level of the saliva reaches 5.5, enamel begins to break down. Enamel cannot regrow or repair itself - so enamel loss is permanent. Enamel loss caused by acidic pH can cause tooth sensitivity to heat and cold, along with discomfort when eating and drinking. Enamel erosion is also often accompanied with teeth staining.
Basic Salivary pH
An alkaline - or basic - salivary pH is 7.5 or higher. A basic salivary pH is beneficial for your oral health, as it aids in the remineralization of tooth enamel and fights bacteria that causes decay and cavities. Additionally, a more alkaline salivary pH can keep bad-breath causing bacteria at bay.
Normal Salivary pH
An ideal salivary pH is one that falls within the normal balanced range - between 6.2 and 7.6 A well balanced salivary pH is close to 6.7. Benefits of a balanced salivary pH are enhanced breath, decreased risk of tooth decay and cavities, reduced incident of heart disease, stroke, and hypertension which are all linked to acidic salivary pH.
How to Restore pH Balance
Worried that your salivary pH might be out of balance? It’s surprisingly easy to get your salivary pH back in balance and reap the benefits of a normal salivary pH level.
Food and drink have a huge impact on the acidity level and pH balance of the mouth. Specifically, reducing the amount of acidity in your diet and increasing the intake of alkaline foods can improve the pH balance of your saliva.
To reduce acidity in your saliva, consider the following:
- Reduce your consumption of coffee, alcohol, and dairy. These are all acidic, so cutting out alcohol, coffee, and dairy or limiting your intake can be helpful in balancing your oral pH.
- Cut down on sugar. Sugar can get your oral pH seriously out of whack. Much like sugar, simple carbohydrates like bread can harm your oral pH.
- Forego artificial sweeteners. If you’re craving something sweet, artificial sweeteners are not exactly a great alternative to sugar. Artificial sweeteners like Xylitol and Aspartame can also add acidity and dysregulated the oral pH.
In addition, you may want to consider bulking up certain areas of your diet to achieve a balanced oral pH:
- Increase your vegetable intake. Most vegetables are alkaline, which will help to neutralize acid levels in the mouth. Leafy greens like spinach, broccoli, and kale are especially helpful in this respect.
- Add seeds and beans to your diet. These foods are alkaline and help balance acid in the mouth.
- Drink more water. Increasing your water intake and rinsing after drinking acidic beverages can help to neutralize acid in the mouth and wash away acidic film in the mouth.
One of the most vital factors to the oral pH is proper dental hygiene. Lack of oral hygiene can allow acid to build up in the saliva. Proper brushing and flossing helps to break down bacteria in the mouth and remove any lingering food or drink that builds acid. Be sure to brush and floss thoroughly twice daily to reach optimal oral pH. Some products, like the GLO ECO Balance Deep Clean & Gum Restoration Oral Health Booster can also help to bring the oral pH back into balance. This twice-daily toothpaste topper foams on contact, deep cleaning the mouth and removing acid to bring the mouth back into balance.
In addition to diet and hygiene, there are certain lifestyle considerations that can impact your oral pH. Specifically, tobacco use, and alcohol can dry out the mouth and wreak havoc on salivary pH, as does excessive coffee intake. To help achieve a balanced oral pH and overall health, consider quitting smoking and cutting down on your alcohol and coffee consumption.
Your oral pH is key to a healthy mouth and body. You can effectively neutralize and balance your oral pH by altering your diet, making healthy food and drink choices, implementing proper oral hygiene practices, and reducing your coffee and alcohol intake.