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CREATE AN ALKALINE BALANCE


Holistic doctors encourage us to eat herbs, fresh vegetables, fruits, vitamins, and minerals to create an alkaline balance in the body. Alkalizing your body is a little more complicated than alkalizing your mouth, but the foods that work for your body will generally work for your mouth. Potatoes, asparagus, and broccoli, for example, leave saliva alkaline. The biggest difference from holistic medicine is that vinegar and lemon juice—often used to control acid reflux and promoted for alkalizing the body—are acidic liquids that can damage tooth enamel if not washed away. Steps should always be taken to quickly remove the acidity of citrus juices and vinegar from around teeth.
Most men suffer dental damage as their saliva dries up because of age, mouth-drying medications, or breathing with their mouth open, especially at night.5 Women, on the other hand, often find they have acidic saliva during pregnancy, during hormonal changes, and even as they enter their mid-to-late thirties. Thus, women have to worry more about fighting mouth acidity than men do.
Like many women who multitask in their busy lives, I am prone to an acidic mouth and am aware of the damage this could cause to my teeth and possibly my health. Measuring the pH of my saliva has shown me how it becomes more alkaline about half an hour after I have taken vitamins, when I relax in a sauna, or when I bask on the beach during vacation. Many forms of relaxation, including gardening and exercising, likewise seem to have positive alkalizing effects on my saliva. (And I find it easy to assume that the things that alkalize my mouth may benefit my general health as well.)
People need to realize that there is no single salivary pH and that one reading that shows a normal pH is not a guarantee that it will remain healthy. Regular readings will help you determine how much protection you have naturally for your teeth and when you may want to be particularly careful during times of more mouth acidity.

Avoid Acidity

Anyone’s saliva can quickly turn acidic without warning and create an acidic mouth environment that can cause long-lived or temporary damage to teeth. As we’ve seen previously, the trigger for this change can be anything from a stressful business meeting to family problems to a situation as serious as bereavement. Even the anticipation of a dental appointment may cause a change in the pH of your saliva. Anyone who is familiar with public speaking or theater knows how saliva thickens right before the show begins. Saliva alters in quality and quantity because of a natural reaction to stress and returns to normal after the event. Most people will have noticed how speakers keep water nearby, because their mouths naturally become dry and their saliva thicker.
Many changes in salivary acidity are temporary, lasting only until the situation or stress has gone, but sometimes saliva remains acidic for longer periods, even months or years. People who are depressed, under stress, or dealing with emotional problems should be aware that their teeth may be at increased risk for acidic damage. The last thing any of these people need at times like these is a cascade of dental problems to add to their trials and tribulations.
People with acidic mouths, or anyone who believes his or her mouth may be acidic, should work even harder to protect their teeth from this acidic damage. Acidity can also be caused by illness, poor nutrition, chemotherapy, lack of sunshine, depression, medications, or hormonal imbalances that may include pregnancy. In relaxed environments, with regained physical and emotional health, saliva pH will usually return to normal again.
Some people find themselves with acidic saliva no matter what they do. This can happen as people age, for those with acid reflux, or those who are chronically sick or dying. Patients with acid reflux have strong stomach acids that enter the mouth at frequent intervals, and this attack almost always occurs when patients lie down to sleep. Acids in the mouth at this time can remain on teeth for hours if they are not washed away by saliva. Consequently, the worst tooth damage from acid reflux will take place in a dry mouth. This may be the mouth of someone who snores, takes mouth-drying medications, or simply sleeps with the mouth wide open.6
Harmful acid-producing mouth germs can themselves generate mouth acidity, especially when those germs multiply and grow in a dry mouth or when they have frequent access to sugary or high carbohydrate food or drink ingredients. Harmful germs not only thrive in an acidic mouth but also constantly produce acids that increase the generalized acidity of the mouth. When teeth are coated with unhealthy germs, acidity levels may be sufficient to weaken and damage tooth surfaces all over the mouth, but particularly under the plaque layer itself.
For most healthy people, the main source of damaging mouth acidity is from frequent and intermittent consumption of acidic foods and beverages. Whatever the cause, an acidic mouth increases your risk for dental problems, brittle teeth, sensitivity, broken fillings, tooth wear, and gum disease, and the damage will always be worse when combined with mouth dryness or lack of saliva.
Ideally, you should not eat or drink before going to bed, because food residue can remain on your teeth for hours. Some people imagine that diet drinks or sugarless cookies will be safe for teeth before bed. Diet drinks are extremely acidic and will often cause severe damage if consumed before sleeping. Any detrimental liquid can remain in tooth crevices and grooves during the night, causing erosion, weakening, and damage. On the other hand, if you leave something beneficial on your teeth before going to bed, it can linger in these crevices or between teeth and may help to repair and remineralize teeth, actually making them stronger while you sleep!

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