What’s all the pHuss

What’s all the pHuss

by Kristina Mackie, DDS
Loretto Family Dentistry, PLLC

Acidic foods and beverages are well-known to cause irreversible enamel damage over time. What does it mean when something is acidic and what’s the result of the consumption of acidic foods and beverages? The acid-base balance or “pH” is the measure of the concentration of hydrogen (H+) to hydroxide (OH-) ions in a solution and is assigned a number between 1 and 14. Acidic solutions have pH values of less than 7, alkaline solutions, more than 7, and pure water being neutral, has a pH of exactly 7. Highly acidic foods and beverages react with the minerals in the tooth’s enamel and dissolve them away in a process called erosion. Once the tooth’s enamel is stripped away, the thicker but softer layer called the dentin is left behind. Dentin wears down at a much faster rate than enamel. There can also be tooth sensitivity when the dentin is exposed and increased incidence of tooth decay. Most dentists and dental hygienist advise their patients to moderate the amount of acidic foods and beverages they consume on a daily basis and to perhaps, supplement with fluoride to fight erosion and cavities.

We all know the consumption of sodas and sports drinks should be limited. But did you know that coffee, yogurt, and even bottled water can be acidic? Not all bottled water is created equal. You may be surprised to know that some bottled waters have acid levels between 1 and 2 pH points above those of sodas. There are many commercially available bottled waters in which the pH is altered to bring the level above neutral. If you want to know the pH of the water you are drinking, pH test strips and liquids are available to consumers over the counter for testing. It’s not a bad idea to test the water you consume, especially if it comes from a bottle. Believe it or not, tap water is typically found to be neutral when tested. The pH of tap water is highly regulated by the city for many reasons but primarily, to combat corrosion of pipes.

Many cities also fluoridate their water which has been found to decrease the rate of tooth decay by 60-65%.

“Everything in balance” should be the motto. You do not need to eliminate everything acidic from your diet but instead, pay careful attention to what you eat and drink on a daily basis that may lead to health and dental problems in the future. There is a useful app called “Drinks Destroy Teeth” which can provide further information on the topics discussed in this article along with fun activities for kids and teachers.

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