Skip to main content

The Impact of Nutrition on Oral Health

Jun 28, 2024 06:35AM ● By Ranine Jaber, DMD
Two chartoon teeth.


Good oral hygiene is only one piece of the puzzle for maintaining a healthy mouth. The nutritional value of the foods we eat, combined with consumption frequency, plays a consequential role in the development of tooth decay. Understanding the significance of pH levels in our mouths during cavity formation can help clarify this process.
The normal resting pH level in the mouth is around seven, which is neutral. When we consume carbohydrates, our saliva breaks them down into simpler sugars that are easier to metabolize. The bacteria in our mouths consume these sugars and release lactic acids, lowering the pH and creating a more acidic environment. As the pH drops and becomes more acidic, demineralization occurs. This means minerals like calcium are pulled out of the tooth, making the enamel more susceptible to cavities. Saliva plays a crucial role in remineralization and buffering after an acid attack, whether from acidic foods and drinks or bacterial byproducts. This is why patients with dry mouth often have several cavities, especially along the gum line. It can take 20 minutes or more for saliva to buffer and return the pH to its resting level.
Consider this scenario: two people go to a coffee shop and order vanilla lattes. One finishes their drink within 10 minutes, while the other sips it periodically over a couple of hours. Who is at higher risk for cavities? Although they consumed the same amount of sugar, the second person, by savoring their drink and sipping on it over the course of two hours, exposed their teeth to lower pH levels for longer periods. These up and down spikes in pH levels can give bacteria an upper hand.
Most of us know that sugar is bad for our teeth. However, this includes not only table sugar but also starches, carbs and fruits, which can have high sugar levels. I have several patients that drink lemon water every morning for its health benefits, but the daily acid attack on the teeth can lead to cavities, even if they brush and floss every day.
Introducing more alkaline foods into your diet can help balance acid levels and lower cavity risk. Animal proteins, cheese, nuts and raw high-fiber vegetables place a protective coat on the teeth and neutralize the acid.
Patients should consider saliva testing to determine the type of bacteria present in their mouths, their pH levels and buffering capacity. Understanding what is happening in your body can influence your decisions and overall health. Incorporating a balanced diet rich in essential nutrients is vital for maintaining optimal oral health. By paying attention to what we eat and making smart food choices, we can support strong teeth and gums and enjoy a lifetime of healthy smiles.


Dr. Ranine Jaber enjoys the creativity involved in dentistry when it comes to improving the balance and architecture of the teeth. She is deeply committed to restoring both her patients’ smiles and oral health using a comprehensive vision and conservative approach. Combining a light touch with a wide variety of options leads to the best and most personalized results for each person, and she can’t wait for you to experience this for yourself. Natural Dental Partners (602-775-5120) is a health-centered dental practice in North Scottsdale. Visit for more information.