Your body’s pH level can affect your overall health. Lower (more acidic) pH levels increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Conversely, higher (more alkaline) pH is linked to improved memory, reduced pain, and lower risk of stroke and hypertension.
Did you know that pH levels also affect your teeth? On the pH scale, anything above 7.0 is alkaline, while anything below 7.0 is acidic. The goal is to keep your mouth at 5.6 or higher. Consider the connection between pH and oral health, as well as how to balance pH levels in your mouth.
Oral Health Risks of an Acidic Mouth
Acidic foods and beverages lower your pH, which can negatively affect your oral health. Here’s what can happen if your mouth experiences long periods of low pH:
- Mineral loss: Acidic snacks deplete your teeth of minerals, leaving them more vulnerable to damage from harmful bacteria. Once the ideal pH of 5.6 is restored, minerals return to your teeth.
- Enamel erosion: Acid wears down enamel, the hard outer coating of your teeth that protects the more sensitive layers underneath. Enamel doesn’t grow back, so it’s vital to care for your teeth before this occurs.
- Tooth decay: Temporary mineral loss and permanent enamel erosion leave your teeth vulnerable to destructive bacteria. The resulting tooth decay and cavities may require restorative dentistry—including fillings, crowns, or root canals—to avoid tooth loss.
- Bad breath: If you struggle with bad breath, this could be a sign of unbalanced pH levels in the mouth.
- Sensitivity to hot and cold: Enamel loss can make your teeth more temperature-sensitive. Since acidity can cause enamel erosion, balancing your pH levels may help treat sensitive teeth.
How to Increase the Alkalinity of Your Mouth
If you want to stop bad bacteria from wreaking havoc in your mouth, create an environment that prevents mineral depletion and supports healthy enamel. Here are some ways to maintain a balanced pH level in your mouth:
- Adopt a more alkaline diet: This consists of eating more vegetables, beans, and seeds while limiting your intake of white bread, sweeteners, condiments, soda, fruit juice, sports drinks, alcohol, tea, and coffee.
- Limit snacks: Every time you eat or drink, your pH level fluctuates. Avoid consuming anything besides water between meals to help the pH remain stable.
- Chew sugar-free gum after meals: Gum chewing stimulates saliva flow, the key to neutralizing acids and protecting your oral health.
- Maintain good dental hygiene: Brush your teeth for two minutes twice a day and floss once a day. Remember to wait at least 30 minutes after eating to brush so your saliva has time to replenish tooth minerals. Schedule a professional dental cleaning twice a year as well.
If you have concerns about managing your pH levels, or it’s been more than six months since your last dental cleaning, contact Park 56 Dental at (212) 826-2322 to schedule a visit to our NYC dentist office.
Do you or a loved one smoke cigarettes? If you’re looking for one more reason to quit, consider that tobacco use in any form raises your risk for oral health problems. Here are the issues associated with smoking cigarettes, cigars, and pipes or using smokeless tobacco:
- Gum disease: Also called periodontal disease, gum disease is an infection that causes red, swollen, tender, and bleeding gums. Smoking increases your risk of gum disease by weakening your immune system, which makes your body less capable of fighting off infection. In fact, smokers are twice as likely as nonsmokers to contract gum disease. The greater your tobacco use, the higher your risk.
- Tooth loss: As gum disease progresses, it eventually affects the underlying bone structure that anchors your teeth to your jaw. If the bone and tissue that hold your teeth in place break down, your teeth may loosen and need to be extracted.
- Plaque and tartar buildup: The chemicals in tobacco products decrease saliva flow, making it easier for bacteria to cling to your teeth and gums. If not removed daily with diligent brushing and flossing, plaque hardens into tartar, a cavity-causing, tooth-staining substance that can only be removed with professional cleaning.
- Cancer: Besides lung cancer, smoking can also cause cancer of the lips, mouth, throat, tonsils, and esophagus. The risk is six times higher among smokers. In fact, 90 percent of patients diagnosed with these oral cancers are tobacco users.
- Delayed healing: The reduced immune function caused by smoking impairs blood flow to the gums, making it harder for your mouth to heal following a tooth extraction, periodontal treatment, or oral surgery.
- Tooth discoloration: Stained, yellow teeth are a hallmark of smoking. Whitening products can sometimes counteract the effects temporarily, but the stains quickly return.
- Bad breath: Smoking leaves a stale film on your teeth and gums, resulting in “smoker’s breath.” You may be able to mask the odor with a mint for a short time, but the smell will return before long.
- Inflammation: Smoking triggers an immune response that increases the level of inflammatory markers in the bloodstream. This may increase inflammation throughout the body, including at the salivary gland openings and on the roof of your mouth.
- Darkened gums: Smoker’s melanosis, or a darkening of the gum tissue, is one response to irritating tobacco smoke. Up to 22 percent of cigarette and pipe smokers develop this oral change. There is no treatment, but the gums typically return to normal within six to 36 months of quitting.
Clearly, if you want to improve your oral health, kicking the tobacco habit is a great place to start. Your dentist can recommend useful products to help you quit, such as nicotine gum and patches. You can also pursue treatments to reverse the damage caused by smoking. For more useful tips, or to schedule an appointment with our NYC dentist, please contact Park 56 Dental online or call us at (212) 826-2322.
When you picture the basics of good oral care, you probably think of brushing and flossing. What about using mouthwash? Many people include this optional step in their daily teeth-cleaning routine. Should you join them?
Benefits of Mouthwash
Here are the top reasons to use mouthwash daily.
- Freshen your breath: Antiseptic mouthwash kills bacteria that cause bad breath while leaving a minty flavor behind. If you struggle with chronic bad breath, be aware that using mouthwash won’t cure the underlying cause. Speak with your dentist about tips to combat the problem at the source.
- Remove biofilm: Your teeth comprise only 25 percent of the total surface area in your mouth. Even after you brush and floss, a thin, slimy layer of bacteria may linger on your tongue, cheeks, and the roof of your mouth. Rinsing with mouthwash minimizes this biofilm, leaving your mouth cleaner than brushing and flossing alone.
- Prevent plaque buildup: Some mouthwash products are formulated to help prevent plaque from building up between your teeth and along the gum line. This sticky substance is teeming with bacteria, so preventing it from forming is the best defense you have against cavities and gum disease.
- Strengthen tooth enamel: Mouthwash with fluoride additives can help make your teeth stronger and more plaque-resistant.
- Prevent staining: Hydrogen peroxide mouthwash has minor whitening capabilities when used as directed. Most importantly, it prevents new stains from setting in, making it an effective smile maintenance product following professional teeth whitening.
How to Use Mouthwash
To maximize the benefits of mouthwash, make sure you use it correctly. Follow the directions on the bottle with these additional tips in mind:
- Brush and floss first: Mouthwash isn’t a substitute for brushing and flossing. Perform these steps first to remove food particles and plaque.
- Use the proper amount: Pour mouthwash into the plastic cup that doubles as a lid, using the amount recommended on the bottle. This is typically between 3 and 5 teaspoons.
- Time yourself: Empty the cup into your mouth and begin swishing it between your teeth. Watch the clock or count in your head to the recommended time, which is usually 30 to 60 seconds. As you do, rinse the cup and place it back on the bottle.
- Spit: At the end of the allotted time, spit the mouthwash into the sink. Avoid swallowing.
- Don’t rinse: Mouthwash continues to work after you spit it out, so to avoid diluting its cleaning and tooth-strengthening benefits, don’t rinse with water after using mouthwash. Also, avoid eating or drinking for 30 minutes or as recommended on the bottle.
Need help selecting the ideal mouthwash for your needs? Speak with the expert team at Park 56 Dental. Besides informing your at-home oral care routine, we also offer preventative and restorative services to keep your smile looking healthy and bright. Call us today at (212) 826-2322 or contact us online for more tips or to schedule an appointment at our NYC office.
Do you suffer from bad breath, also known as halitosis? In a majority of cases, the odor stems from bacteria in your mouth. Everyone knows that eating onions and garlic can make your breath stink, but these are far from the only culprits. Learn what other things cause bad breath so you can avoid them.
- Citrus fruit: Odor-causing bacteria love acidic environments, so eating lots of citrus fruit invites bad breath to stick around.
- Pasta sauce: Tomatoes are acidic as well, meaning red pasta sauce can contribute to bad breath.
- High-protein diets: The body produces ammonia as a byproduct of breaking down protein. When the odor escapes from your mouth, it causes bad breath.
- High-sugar diets: Because of how sugar interacts with the bacteria in your mouth, eating too many sweets could result in sour breath.
- Peanut butter: Its sticky consistency makes peanut butter difficult for saliva to wash away. As it lingers, bacteria feed, making your breath stink for hours at a time.
- Canned fish: Fishy compounds tend to linger in the mouth, giving off an unsavory smell until you drink water, chew gum, or brush your teeth.
- Cheese: Most dairy products, including cheese, contain amino acids that react with bacteria in your mouth to produce excess hydrogen sulfide. The result is a mouth that smells like rotten eggs.
- Horseradish: Isothiocyanate is a sulfur-containing compound found in all cruciferous vegetables, including horseradish. Mint is the best way to combat the effects of this compound.
- Coffee: Your favorite morning beverage has a drying effect on the mouth, reducing saliva flow and allowing odor-causing bacteria to thrive.
- Alcohol: Excessive alcohol consumption causes dehydration, which can reduce saliva production. This creates a dry environment for foul-smelling bacteria to flourish.
- Tobacco: Smoking or chewing tobacco causes an unpleasant odor in the mouth. Smokers are also more likely to develop gum disease, another source of bad breath.
- Medications: Some prescriptions cause dry mouth, a known cause of halitosis. Other drugs break down in your body, releasing foul-smelling chemicals that can be carried on your breath.
- Infections: Gum disease, tooth decay, mouth sores, or surgical wounds may lead to infections that cause bad breath and an unpleasant taste in your mouth.
- Digestive issues: Chronic digestive distress, acid reflux, and bowel disorders can produce gases that cause halitosis. An inability to digest certain enzymes could also lead to bad breath.
- Poor dental hygiene: The best way to combat almost all sources of bad breath is to brush, floss, and rinse with mouthwash. By maintaining good oral health, you can combat halitosis before it starts.
If your bad breath just won’t go away, you may need help from a dentist to uncover the underlying cause. Please contact Park 56 Dental at (212) 826-2322 to work with one of the top dentists in New York. By providing a thorough dental cleaning, we can help you get rid of bad breath for good!