Irrespective of the purpose of toothpaste, you may have never considered the pH of the toothpaste as of prime importance. In reality, you must check the pH of toothpaste before you go for it. It is essential to maintain a pH balance in your mouth. Correct pH level can play a crucial role to help fight off cavities and other oral problems. Your diet may include certain food items that create an acidic environment.
Using toothpaste with a correct pH level will help you to neutralize the acidic activity in your mouth, thereby keeping your teeth healthy and strong.
What is pH?
A pH scale is numbered from 1 to 14. pH of 1 is the most acidic level and 14 is the most alkaline. A pH of 7 is neutral. In simple terms, it is a scale to measure the number of hydrogen ions present in the given substance. The higher amount of hydrogen ions means that the product is acidic.
As the number of ions decreases, the alkalinity of the product increases. The body’s concentration of hydrogen ions must be strictly maintained for optimal cellular function. Your body’s pH lies in a strict range of 7.35-7.45 which makes it slightly alkaline.
How does pH affect your enamel?
Many microorganisms that are present in your oral cavity require a certain pH level to grow. Your saliva regulates the pH of most surfaces in your mouth. When you consume acidic food and beverages, the pH levels in your mouth drop down, thus creating an imbalance in your oral cavity. This imbalance leads to demineralization of teeth or enamel erosion.
Although enamel is known to be the hardest material of the human body, it can still be destroyed. Enamel erosion is the constant wearing away of the outermost part of your tooth surface. It occurs due to lower pH levels of your oral cavity.
The interaction between mouth bacteria and sugars from some foods and drinks can produce acids. The acidic conditions over time cause the enamel to dissolve, weakening the enamel structure slowly. Enamel erosion starts when the pH levels go down below 5.0. It leads to thinning of the enamel, exposing the dentin.
Initially, erosion begins in the enamel and causes it to become thin. If the condition is not treated, it further progresses into dentin. It gives the tooth a dull yellow appearance and causes dentin hypersensitivity. To prevent this, your mouth must maintain a pH level of at least 5.5. This pH level is also known as critical pH.
It is vital to know about critical pH whenever you think about your oral cavity. In this pH level, the saliva and plaque cease to be saturated with calcium and phosphate, thereby allowing the hydroxyapatite crystals of your dental enamel to dissolve. (1)
Your enamel consists of hydroxyapatite crystals which dissolve below the critical pH. When fluoride comes into play, these crystals reprecipitate as fluorapatite, which is formed when fluoride replaces hydroxyl groups in the hydroxyapatite crystals. They are less soluble and provides additional protection to your teeth.
The hydroxyapatite dissolves till the saliva saturates with the deficient calcium and phosphate. Usually, the accepted level of critical pH is 5.5 for the enamel, but it can be higher or lower depending on person to person.
pH levels in whitening toothpaste
Most of the tooth whitening products are safe to use as their pH level is significantly lower. Also, most tooth-whiteners come with different pH levels. (2) Peroxides are an active ingredient present in tooth-whitening toothpaste. They are present in the form of hydrogen or carbamide peroxide. It is essential for you to know the levels of peroxides present in your toothpaste as higher levels of peroxides makes your toothpaste acidic in nature.
In a study, it was revealed that the tooth whitening toothpaste has a mean pH of 6.83. These kinds of toothpaste lie in the range of 4.22 to 8.35. (3) Subjecting your teeth to such toothpaste will eventually erode your enamel. These toothpastes should be used keeping the pH in knowledge to minimize the potential damage to the enamel. You must take your dentist’s recommendation before using these products.
pH levels of mineral-based toothpaste
For years, fluoride is known to strengthen teeth. It works for your benefit in several ways. First, it inhibits bacteria growth. Secondly, it helps our teeth to remineralize at a faster rate, something that your teeth need when they begin to demineralize or erode.
Fluoride plays a vital role in the remineralization process. Below the critical pH, the hydroxyapatite crystals dissolve, but the released mineral ions could reprecipitate as fluorapatite which is less soluble and may provide additional protection onto the apatite crystals.
As the process of remineralization starts, fluoride gets mineralized into the outer layer of the tooth. It makes your tooth ten times more resistant to acid attack and prevents your teeth from enamel erosion. Fluoride is a weak base, about 6.6 when measured on the pH scale. This level of pH makes it safer to use on your enamel. (4) Every time you use fluoridated toothpaste, your enamel will absorb some amount of fluoride to replace the minerals lost in the demineralization process.
Over time, the tooth covered with fluoride will be more resistant to acid attacks than the teeth cleaned with non-fluoridated toothpaste. Tooth enamel once destroyed cannot be replaced. But you can strengthen them by using toothpaste with remineralizing ingredients as they help in restoring the lost minerals.
A healthy mouth will always have a near-neutral pH level. It’s good to keep in mind the different pH levels present in different kinds of toothpaste. If the pH level of your toothpaste is less, then it means it is more acidic and might be harmful to your teeth.
If you maintain a good pH balance in your mouth, then it allows a healthy balance of good and bad bacteria. Also, the pH level of your mouth changes drastically with the kind of food that you eat. Therefore, go for a balanced diet and follow a healthy lifestyle. If you have sensitive teeth, it’s good to consider toothpaste which is designed specifically for treating sensitivity.