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High acid levels in your mouth lead to cavities

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Nicola DeJesus
  • 71st Medical Operations Squadron
Factors that influence the health of your teeth and the formation of cavities include how often you eat and the consistency and type of food you eat.

The frequency you eat and drink plays a huge factor in forming cavities by changing the pH level in your mouth. The pH level is the number which tells how acidic or non-acidic your mouth is. Seven is neutral. The lower the number, the more acidic your mouth is.

When you eat fermentable carbohydrates - foods containing sugar -- the bacteria in your mouth use the sugar for fuel and produce acid as a waste product causing the pH in your mouth to lower to a level that can dissolve enamel in less than five minutes.

It takes 20 minutes for the pH to return to normal levels. This acid is what starts to dissolve the enamel and allows cavities to form. Enamel starts to dissolve when the pH level drops below 5.5.

The longer the pH remains below 5.5 the more enamel will be dissolved. Fortunately, you have saliva to wash away the acid and lay down new calcium to repair your teeth.

Factors that play a part in how cavities are formed in your mouth are how often you eat, the type of food you eat, the consistency of the food, your oral hygiene and how much saliva you have.

Every time you sip or eat something it will lower the pH in your mouth for approximately 20 minutes. Your saliva will try to raise the pH above 5.5, but if you keep drinking acidic drinks or sugary foods, your saliva will not be able to neutralize the acid.

If the acidity is strong enough to dissolve your teeth, you may have permanent damage, such as a cavity.

Removing the plaque left in your mouth by the foods you eat will help reduce the acid level.

Saliva acts as a rinse in the mouth. People with less saliva, or dry mouth, are more susceptible to cavities.

Oral hygiene plays a very big role in oral health. Brush at least twice daily and floss at least once a day in order to balance the pH levels and prevent cavities.

USAF. (U.S. Air Force Graphic by Rosario "Charo" Gutierrez)