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Why Your Saliva pH Is Important

Published date field Last Updated:

Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

During regular check-ups, dental and medical professionals take measurements to assess your health, like your height, weight, and blood pressure, which can help indicate information about your health. There’s another measurement, however, that can also provide insight: your saliva pH. Here, we’ll look at why your saliva pH is important and how it affects your oral health.

The pH scale measures a substance's acidity or alkalinity. The scale ranges from 0 to 14, with 7 representing neutrality. The lower end of the scale is acidic, and the higher end of the scale is alkaline. What is the pH of saliva? According to an article in the Hindawi journal, the normal pH of saliva is between 6.7 and 7.4, making it relatively neutral. But if this level reaches below this range, meaning if your saliva pH is more acidic, it could reflect an issue or abnormality with your oral health.

Factors Impacting Saliva pH

The food and drinks you consume, especially sugary ones like soda, affect the pH of your mouth. When you eat or drink, the bacteria in your mouth break down carbohydrates. These bacteria release various types of acids, which lower your saliva pH. Tobacco use can also affect salivary pH. A study published in the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology examined the salivary pH of three groups of people: tobacco smokers, tobacco chewers, and non-tobacco users. The first two groups had significantly lower salivary pH than the latter group, meaning tobacco made their saliva more acidic.

How Saliva pH Affects Dental Health

Your salivary pH can have serious implications for your dental health. While tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the body, it can be damaged by acidic saliva. When the pH of your saliva drops below 5.5, your tooth enamel starts to break down. Unfortunately, since tooth enamel can't grow back, this damage is permanent. If acids have eroded your enamel, your teeth might be sensitive. You could also notice discomfort when you drink hot, cold, or sweet beverages. A yellowish discoloration is another warning sign of enamel erosion.

Enamel erosion also paves the way for another dental issue: cavities. When your enamel erodes, bacteria can more easily attack your teeth with acid and cause these holes. The longer your teeth are exposed to low (acidic) salivary pH, the more likely you will develop cavities. Cavities don't heal by themselves, so you'll need to see your dental professional for treatment. Dentists may repair small cavities with fillings, while larger cavities may require more extensive restorations, such as crowns.

Tips to Restore Your Saliva's pH

If you're worried about the pH level of your saliva, talk to your dental professional. They can measure your saliva's acidity using a special tool called a pH meter. Your dentist may recommend additional treatments to restore your saliva's pH levels.

Fortunately, you can take steps to help control your salivary pH at home. Tips to protect your teeth from acids:

  • Avoid or limit soft drinks and other acidic beverages.
  • Avoid swishing acidic beverages around your mouth.
  • Rinse your mouth with water after you eat or drink.
  • Chew sugarless gum to increase your saliva flow and wash away acids.
  • Drink milk or eat foods that contain calcium, like cheese, which neutralize acids.

Further, wait an hour to brush your teeth after eating something acidic. That way, your saliva can wash away acids and remineralize your enamel. 

While few people think about their salivary pH, it is an important health indicator. If your saliva is too acidic, you could develop oral health problems like cavities and enamel erosion. To learn more about your personal salivary pH, talk to your dental professional.

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

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