Dr. Vladimir GashinskyEducation is central to what we do – and to what our members do in their own practices, helping their patients to become more knowledgeable about biological approaches to oral and whole body health so they can take charge of their own health and well-being. Many do at least part of that teaching through their blogs, and we thought it would be great to periodically share some of their content with you here.

This month, we start with a recent post from the office of IABDM member dentist Dr. Vladimir Gashinsky

Oral pH: A Way to Keep Tabs on Your Oral Health Between Dental Visits

You brush your teeth twice a day. You floss – maybe not every day but pretty much every day. So you feel pretty good about things when you go in for your regular exam and cleaning.

And then you’re told that you’ve got decay happening. Or worsening gum disease. And you’re gobsmacked.

Truth be told, a lot can happen in the months between dental visits, and as important as brushing and flossing are, they’re not the only factors that affect oral health. So what can you do to lower your risk of unhappy surprises at the dental office?

The answer lies in your spit.

Saliva: A Biomarker for Your Oral Health

Saliva has a number of important jobs, such as washing away food debris and delivering minerals to your teeth to keep their protective enamel strong and intact. It also helps neutralize acids that could otherwise destroy enamel, making your teeth more vulnerable to decay.

Some of those acids come from what you eat and drink. Others come from the metabolic waste of bacteria that feast on sugars and starches in what you consume. (It’s not just sweet stuff but any foods made from white flour and other refined carbs.)

In a healthy mouth, it takes about 20 to 30 minutes for saliva to return the environment to a neutral state. In an unhealthy mouth, though, conditions can remain more acidic on a day-to-day basis. That’s the bad news.

The better news is that this means that regularly checking your oral pH can give you a pretty good read on your current oral health.

A Healthy Mouth Is a Neutral Mouth

This was demonstrated some years ago by a beautifully simple study. Three hundred patients took part: 100 with healthy gums, 100 with chronic gingivitis (early stage gum disease), and 100 with chronic periodontitis (advanced gum disease). Saliva samples were taken from each and then analyzed.

Compared to their peers with healthy gums, those with periodontitis had more acidic mouths. Interestingly, though, those with gingivitis tended to have the most alkaline mouths. This is because alkaline conditions are essential for plaque growth. That plaque irritates the gums, triggering inflammation.

Ideally, your oral pH should be right around 7.0, which is true neutral.

How to Check Your Saliva’s pH

Testing your saliva’s pH is simple. All you need are test strips.

To make sure you get an accurate result, don’t eat or drink anything for at least two hours before you test your saliva.

Once you’re ready, fill your mouth with saliva and swallow or spit it out. Then fill your mouth with saliva again and place a small amount on a test strip.

To determine the pH of your sample, just compare the color of the strip to the chart on the container it came from.

What You Eat & Drink: A Key to Reducing Oral Acidity

If your saliva is consistently acidic, the place to start fixing that is your diet. While each person’s specific needs can vary, the ideal is a diet centered on real, minimally processed food, with lots of fresh produce and limited refined grains and added sugars (even “natural” or “healthier” ones like honey, molasses, and agave). Think paleo, keto, Wise Traditions, and similar ways of eating.

Most common beverages tend toward the acidic – even unflavored, unsweetened seltzers – so should be enjoyed only occasionally. Flat water should be your go-to.

However, you should know that even some brands of flat water can actually be acidic. One study of a dozen bottled or tap water sources found that half of them had pH levels below 7.0, despite the claims given in water quality reports or on websites. This included the two most readily available brands, Dasani and Aquafina.

Interestingly, both samples of tap water that they tested were slightly alkaline. Of course, both also contained fluoride. That, at least, can be removed before drinking. This guide offers a solid overview of which methods work best (and which don’t work at all).

Don’t find your brand in the study linked to above? More brands are included in the report you’ll find here.

Image by Alvy16, via Wikimedia Commons