Writer / Gary W. Weitzel
Photography provided by Springhetti Dentistry
In November and December 2021, our readers were introduced to Dr. Aaron Springhetti, DMD of Springhetti Dentistry serving West Carmel, the Village of WestClay and Zionsville. He’s talked about his four-step commitment to patient care: Education; Diagnosis; Attention to Detail and Generosity. In December, Dr. Springhetti spoke about Preventive Dentistry. This month, he helps the reader further understand how the foods and beverages we consume affect our teeth and gums – a key to understanding good oral health and overall health.
Here are the basics for understanding simple sugars and acidic beverages:
Food Types to Limit in Diet:
- Food w/ simple sugars-anything that contains fructose(sugar in fruit), galactose(sugar in dairy), or sucrose(table sugar) needs to be moderated. Always refer to the nutrition facts/ingredients section on the packaging;
- Processed foods, boxed/packaged foods; Candy; and Acidic drinks. These are key contributors to poor oral health.
Studies show enamel starts to demineralize or soften at a pH of 5.5 and below. This is when cavities start to form. Starting as small white spots, over time cavities grow and become yellow, brown then black as they acquire stain and the decay process becomes more extensive. Continued intake of acids and food, along with the bacteria in plaque can get caught in the soft and porous enamel and further accelerate the decay process.
Pure water is the savior of teeth and water is an essential part of your whole mouth hygiene regimen. The pH of pure water is 7.0. Water is the best thing you can drink to cleanse your teeth and prevent acid erosion of the enamel. Your family can reduce the acid in the mouth after eating or drinking acidic beverages by simply brushing teeth or thoroughly rinsing your mouth with pure water. It’s even OK to swallow afterward if you wish!
Dr. Springhetti gives this advice from an endurance athlete’s perspective; “It is impossible to avoid sugar and acid in training and racing; in fact, it is imperative to optimize your intake of nutrition for performance benefits; however, it is important to drink plenty of water as well not only for rehydration but also to help cleanse your teeth. If you’re an endurance athlete, ask your dentist about prescription toothpaste that you can use after big training days or long races where consumption of sugar and acid is high. Also, a water flossing device should be rudimentary in your oral hygiene regimen whether an athlete or not. There is no better tool to cleanse your mouth.”
Acids cause inflammation in your body – in your gut, your mouth, and acid is just as bad for systemic health as your oral health. Because of acid and the resultant cavities and gum tissue damage due to poor diets and hygiene, fluoride in our city water and fluoride supplements from your dentist are so important to help strengthen enamel that has been compromised from acidic erosion and decay.
Here is a simple pH level guide to improve your family’s overall health. Be aware that pH level is rarely found on the nutrition labeling on packaging (see further information code in the ribbon):
- Drinks with a pH level less than 7 are acidic. Avoid them or brush/rinse
- Drinks with a pH greater than 7 are basic.
- A pH of 7 (water has a pH level of 7) is considered neutral
- Demineralization (loss of tooth enamel) generally begins at a pH of 5.5
- A one-unit change (i.e. 3.0 to 2.0) in pH is associated with a 10 fold change in the acidity
- Battery Acid has a pH of 1.0
- Stomach Acid is between pH 1.5-3.5—think about how important stomach acid is for breaking down your food and degrading harder substances. Some drinks that we ingest are more acidic than stomach acid!!! i.e. Coca Cola(2.8 pH!!) Vitamin Water!? (3.34pH-not very beneficial for your heath-misnomer w/ Vitamin!)
Do your best to avoid, or at least properly brush/rinse following the consumption of these basic categories of acidic drinks:
- Sodas(diet and regular)—even diet soda is very acidic: a common misconception is that diet sodas don’t have sugar so they don’t cause cavities when, in fact, they are just as bad for your teeth as regular soda due to the acidity.
- Energy Drinks-
- Sparkling Water-
- Seltzer Water and Alcoholic Beverages
- Bottled Water!!! Yes, even bottled water can be terrible for your teeth: (e.g. Dasani Plus—3.04)
- Citrus Drinks: Lemonade, OJ, etc.
- Sports Drinks: Gatorade, Powerade
- Popular alcoholic Drinks like ‘White Claw’: have pH of 3.1!!!
Eat the Best – Avoid the Rest
Spend time enjoying natural, whole foods. These are the real deal and are not overly processed. Keep eating those veggies, grains, meats, cheeses, fruits (but watch the natural sugars and the citrus), and WATER. Remember to brush or rinse with pure water(and fluoride toothpaste of course), but do wait at least 30 minutes before brushing after ingesting acidic foods or drinks.
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Enjoy Life – Enjoy Healthy Foods and Remember to Brush and Rinse!
It is what it is! Common sense leads us to moderation and remediation. Enjoy food and beverages in moderation and remediate with a rinse or drink of pure water. Instilling the discipline of good oral hygiene with your family will allow them to enjoy life while protecting them from cavities and more serious dental diseases. Education, discipline and prevention are keys in dentistry, and reducing acids and sugars will help with systemic health and controlling weight as well.