Brushing and flossing are not the only healthy rituals that are vital for optimum dental health. Your lifestyle habits, particularly your diet, are just as important.
The quality of macronutrients you ingest (namely protein, fat and carbohydrate), and how you combine them at each meal, have a major impact on the health of your teeth and your body. When you “overcarb,” (when you eat sugary foods and processed carbohydrates like white bread, white rice white pasta, and other processed grain product, or simply too many carbohydrates for your body), you cause biochemical changes in your body that result in fat storage, low energy, hunger, cravings, mood swings, and put your teeth at risk of demineralization. Here’s how it works:
All carbohydrates (refined or complex) break down into glucose or blood sugar. If you “overcarb” there is a rapid rush of glucose into your blood steam or a “blood sugar spike.” Your body uses some of this glucose for energy, stores some in your liver for later use, and converts the rest into fat and stores it in your fat cells. Glucose is metabolized in your body in two ways: aerobically (with oxygen) and anaerobically (without oxygen). The byproduct of your anaerobic energy system is lactic acid, which is produced in every one of your trillions of cells. When you eat too many carbohydrates, your body will produce excess lactic acid as it processes the carbohydrates you have ingested. When you workout vigorously (when you get “the burn”), your body is also producing lactic acid. Lactic acid can cause your body and your mouth to become acidic (pH below 7.0), technically known as acidosis.
How does acidosis impact on your health?
The human body is a very complex and mysterious creature. One of the more interesting things is how it regulates its highly sensitive pH levels. The pH of your blood is the most tightly regulated of your body’s fluids, at a slightly alkaline pH of 7.4. So when you load up on carbohydrates and you start turning acidic, your body has several ways in which it buffers that acid to ensure the blood maintains its healthy pH. One of the methods of neutralizing or buffering acid is with free calcium, which is taken from the most obvious source-your bones and your teeth. This free calcium eventually deposits in different parts of your body including on your teeth, and on your arterial walls. Free calcium is a well-documented cause of tartar formation on your teeth, as well as heart disease and cancer.
An acidic body can also begin to show signs of insulin resistance. It appears that insulin needs to have an alkaline medium to be effective, or the receptor sites fail to completely recognize its presence. This means an acidic body lacking the alkaline minerals of vegetables, fruits, calcium-magnesium supplements, and proper food combining may lead to diabetes and/or hypoglycemia.
To add fuel to the fire, the acidic environment in your mouth makes the perfect breeding ground for anaerobic bacteria (yeast, fungus and parasites)-the bad guys. This also means the destruction of aerobic bacteria-the good guys. They simply can’t survive in such an acidic environment. The result: gum disease and caries.
You may find it interesting that fossil records of our ancestors clearly show the absence of dental caries, confirming that caries are a lifestyle-dependent disease caused by the excessive consumption of carbohydrates. You can begin to see a destructive downward spiral that starts with the typical American breakfast of pop tarts and orange juice!
How do you know when you are in an acidic state?
It’s quite simple-simple enough to test you and your family at home and your patients at the office every day. All you need to do is test your saliva pH levels, because your saliva is a direct reflection of the state of your blood and circulatory system. Keep in mind, when your saliva pH dips below 6.0, technically known as “critical pH” (see Steadman’s Medical Dictionary), your teeth and bones begin to de-mineralize or dissolve. Needless to say, this is a state you want to avoid.
The best time to test your salivary pH is 1-2 hours after a meal. There are two tools you need to carry out this test: a plastic spoon and litmus paper (range 5.5 – 8.0). I use litmus paper from Micro Essential Laboratory 4224 Avenue H, Brooklyn, NY 11210. It is available from www.EnergyFirst.com.
To test your salivary pH, spit into the plastic spoon and dip the litmus paper into saliva quickly then remove. After no more than 3 seconds, compare the color of the litmus paper to the color chart that comes with it. Yellow indicates very acid saliva; dark blue indicates a neutral to slightly alkaline or basic saliva. Your aim is to always test neutral or slightly alkaline i.e. pH 7 to 7.5.
Here’s a classic example of how what you eat impacts your pH:
Dr. Dan Rosen D.D.S., C.C.N., formerly of Austin Texas, took his youngest child’s class on a field trip to his dental office. At around 10am he dispensed plastic spoons and litmus paper to the children, asked them to spit and then dip the paper in their saliva. All of the children’s litmus paper, except Dr Rosen’s children, was bright yellow indicating extremely acid saliva with a PH around 5.0. Dr Rosen’s children displayed dark green/blue litmus paper indicating a pH of 7.4-perfect saliva! A discussion ensued about what each child had eaten for breakfast. The children whose saliva tested acid had eaten breakfast comprising nothing but processed carbohydrates-orange juice, pop tarts, breakfast cereal, toast-typical “over-carbing” which, as you now know, supports an anaerobic breakdown of the food and acidic or unhealthy pH. In stark contrast, Dr. Rosen’s children had eaten an egg white omelet, avocado, fresh tomato slices, and a glass of water-a healthy balance of lean protein, good fats, and unprocessed carbohydrates, which supports an aerobic breakdown and alkaline or healthy pH.
The moral of this story:
There is a direct correlation between your diet and the state of your dental and general health. If you follow a balanced nutrition, exercise, and supplementation program, you can significantly lower the risk of dental infection as well as the risk of major degenerative diseases.