Toothpaste is a paste or gel dentifrice used to clean and polish teeth. Most toothpastes contain dozens of ingredients including abrasives, detergents, flavouring agents and flouride which helps to fight plaque and prevent demineralization of the enamel.
However, many of you may be curious if toothpaste is acidic or alkali in nature. Some believe that an acidic toothpaste helps to kill off any unwanted bacteria that lingers after a meal. Others suggest that an alkali-based toothpaste helps to balance the pH level in your mouth after consuming acidic food such as sugary drinks, citrus juices and pickled vegetables. So, is toothpaste an acid or a base?
As it turns out, almost all major toothpaste products in the market are a mild base, which meant that they are a weak alkali. While there are no publicly available data about the pH level of popular toothpaste products, the pH level of most big brand toothpaste falls between pH 7.2 to 8, with some reaching as high as pH 8.5.
The primary purpose of a weak alkali toothpaste is to neutralize any acids that remains in a mouth. Harmful bacterias present in the mouth can cause a wide range of dental-related problems such as periodontal diseases and dental caries. For instance, Streptococcus mutans feeds on sugar and produce lactic acid through a process known as fermentation. At pH 5.5, the acidic environment causes the enamel to erode, resulting in tooth decay.
In fact, tooth erosion is observed in over 90% of patients with bulimia. Regular episodes of induced vomiting causes gastric acid to flows back up to the mouth and attack the enamel. Gum recession, inflammation and ulcers are also some of the common dental issues faced by bulimic patients.
That said, some toothpastes are acidic in nature due to the presence of particular ingredients. For instance, whitening toothpastes contain bleaching agents such as hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide. While these weak acids help to destroy plaque and remove food stain on the enamel, they may also cause adverse effects such as gum sensitivity and tooth erosion. As such, you are discouraged from using whitening toothpastes or take-home whitening kits without consulting a professional at your local dentist clinic.
In conclusion, while toothpastes can be both acidic and alkaline, most exists in its alkaline form to help neutralize acids in the mouth. This is an important part of oral health as it prevents enamel erosion. To make full use of its potential benefits, be sure to brush two twice a day, two minutes each, to keep your smile healthy!