Is Your Mouth at a Healthy pH Level? We Took the Test
You probably don’t think about pH levels very much when it comes to your day-to-day health. The concept likely just conjures up images of testing liquids in elementary school science classes. However, understanding mouth pH levels can help boost your oral health. If your mouth pH levels get out of control, it can have some harmful consequences for your teeth. So, we’ve put together a quick explainer on mouth pH and shared a little experiment testing our own saliva levels.
pH levels run from 0 to 14. A pH level of 0 is extremely acidic (think battery acid), and 14 is highly alkaline. Antacids like Tums sit around a pH level of 11, which is why they’re so good at killing the pain that comes with eating super acidic foods.
Soda tends to have a pH level of 2.5, which isn’t ideal for teeth—all the sugar notwithstanding. Water sits right in the middle at 7.
A quick breakdown of pH in the mouth
Why does the pH level in your mouth matter? Here’s what dentist Vladana Babcic, DMD, had to say about oral pH: “Your saliva acts like a buffer. It tries to be at a neutral pH and the closer you can be, the better off you are, the less chance you have of developing a cavity. You can’t develop a cavity just from low pH; there have to be bacteria and plaque in the mix. Your saliva can only do so much. It can’t do miracles. When you eat something sweet, like hard candy, and have a lot of sugar in your mouth … your saliva tries to balance it all out.”
Here’s what different pH levels mean for your mouth:
- pH of 5.5 or lower: This is the danger zone. An oral pH of 5.5 or lower means your teeth are starting to dissolve or demineralize.
- pH between 6.5-7: This is a healthy range.
- pH above 8: Let’s just assume you just ate a couple Tums.
To test our own mouths, we ordered some pH testing strips from Amazon. They cost about $10, so it was a fairly inexpensive test. We learned that to properly test our mouths’ pH levels, we shouldn’t eat or drink anything for two hours before testing our saliva.
So, we all showed up to our test hungry, thirsty and ready to get it over with. (Although a couple of us cheated and drank water or soda without thinking about it. Those people re-tested themselves again in the afternoon.)
The instructions guided us to spit once or twice before testing our saliva, to make sure the stuff in our mouths hadn’t been affected by the air and environment. We all spit into a napkin, and then spit into a tiny glass. After having just spit, it was hard to generate enough saliva to create a good sample in the glass, but we made it work.
We all dipped our pH strips in the saliva for 15 seconds and then tested them against the color key on the box. Most of us fell between pH levels of 6.5 and 6.75, although Amanda got pretty close to 7. Maybe it’s all that calcium in her diet!
This was by no means a scientific investigation of our own oral pH levels. We’re just humans (ones who occasionally drink Coke Zero without thinking about it, and can’t quite tell which color of yellow-green our strips matched best with). It was a fun experiment though, and did reveal that some of us just have higher pH levels than others. Those lucky ducks are less likely to get cavities from a candy bar than those who have naturally lower pH levels in their mouths.
We hope you enjoyed our little science experiment!