You probably know that sugary foods can damage your teeth because bacteria in your mouth consume the sugar and produce acid. But many other foods can damage your teeth as well by being acidic themselves. If you’re aware which foods these are, you will know better how to protect your teeth from them.
How Acidic Is Too Acidic?
The scale of acidity is the pH level, which is based on the number of free hydrogen ions there are that can attack your tooth enamel (and other compounds). A pH of 7 is neutral, and higher numbers are basic. It’s a logarithmic scale, so a pH of 3 is ten times more acidic than a pH of 4. A 4 is where serious tooth enamel loss begins.
Canned Tomatoes Are Worse
You may have heard that tomatoes are acidic, and it’s true. Tomatoes naturally have a pH of about 4.3-4.9, so they’re not a major concern. However, canned tomatoes can be much more acidic. Tomato puree can have a pH of 3.3. If you can, try making your own tomato sauce with fresh tomatoes, or at least avoid canned tomatoes in making your sauce.
Not All Citrus Is Created Equal
Citrus fruit is good for you because it’s high in vitamin C, but it can be bad for your teeth because of its high acidity. Not all citrus fruit is equally dangerous to your teeth.
Oranges are your best bet–their pH is about 3.7-4.3, so only mildly damaging.
Grapefruits are much more acidic, ranging from 3.0-3.8, and lemons and limes can have a pH as low as 2, so try to avoid eating them too often..
Hot & Spicy Mess
If Buffalo wings are among your favorite game day treats, beware. Buffalo hot sauce is high in vinegar, and like similar hot sauces it has a pH of about 2.8.
And although many of the ingredients in salsa, such as tomato and onion are only mildly acidic, salsa can contain either vinegar or citrus juice, which can lower the pH significantly.
Grapes not so Great for Your Teeth
Grapes can seem like a convenient, healthy fruit to snack on, but they can be bad for your teeth. Niagara, Concord, and seedless grapes can all have a pH below 3. While we’re talking about fruits, it’s worth mentioning that pomegranates and many plums also have a pH of under 3. Cranberry juice is almost as bad as lemon juice, with a pH of about 2.3.
The King Is Beer
Many drinks are very acidic and bad for the teeth. Sports drinks can have a pH of around 3, as do many sodas, although colas are significantly lower, pushing the 2.0 mark. And remember the fruit juices we mentioned as being acidic. If you are looking for a healthy soft drink for your teeth, stick to milk or water.
Wine is among the most acidic of alcoholic beverages. It is often around 3.0. Hard liquor is not as acidic, but once you start mixing it with citrus juice and soda, the pH drops significantly.
The best alcoholic drink for your teeth is beer, with a pH of about 4. Although craft beers may be tastier, a simple American lager gets tooth-healthy points for having fewer staining compounds.
If You Eat Acidic Foods
We’re not telling you to avoid these foods–that would be impossible, especially come game day–but if you do consume them, be smart. After you eat these foods, rinse your mouth with water or a high-pH food to neutralize the acid. Cheese is a great way to end a meal–it has significant protective properties.
Don’t rush to brush your teeth after eating acidic foods–your tooth enamel may be softened, and you may actually do more harm than good.
And, of course, don’t forget to make your regular dental checkups.
To learn more about maintaining your oral health or to schedule an appointment, please contact Dr. Polley.