We test pH at every visit, which only requires a very small saliva sample to determine the acidity level of your saliva. Using this test, we can make decisions about your treatment needs and recommend a way to keep your saliva less acidic, as the bacteria that causes tooth decay and cavities live and thrive in an acidic environment. Keeping your saliva less acidic can also help prevent tooth sensitivity and erosion.
Strategies to decrease acidity are:
- Use baking soda or baking soda toothpaste to brush your teeth, which can also produce a slight whitening effect.
- Chew sugar-free or xylitol gum, mints or candy. These items increase saliva flow, which naturally buffers the acids in the mouth. Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar that the tooth decay-causing bacteria can’t metabolize. The combination of increased saliva flow and xylitol can very effectively reduce the bacteria count and prevent decay. Exposing the mouth to xylitol three times a day, five minutes each time, greatly decreases the number of harmful bacteria. Just note that xylitol is poisonous to dogs and cats, so make sure to keep it out of reach.
- Take TUMS®, which are a great antacid. When chewed, it neutralizes the acids in the mouth and stomach. It also beneficially provides calcium.
- Control how often you expose your mouth to acids and sugars, which feed the bacteria. Think of a cup of coffee or any other acidic food or beverage—a cup of coffee drunk over a half hour is one exposure period. If you drink this same cup of coffee over two hours, you’ve exposed your mouth four times longer. In the mouth, the frequency and length of time of each exposure matters more than the amount of consumption.
- Don’t brush your teeth right after eating something acidic. We don’t want to discourage brushing by any means, but you should neutralize the acids before brushing to avoid scrubbing them into the teeth, which can cause sensitivity and erosion over time.