As health practitioners, we love to hear our patients telling us they are looking after their bodies with diet and exercise. Lately, a lot of our patients have been talking to us about their efforts to improve their gut health. Good gut health can contribute to a stronger immune system, heart and brain health, improved mood and sleeping, effective digestion, and could help to prevent autoimmune diseases and cancer.
With benefits like these its no wonder that people are turning to gut health-boosting foods and drinks. You can improve your gut health by increasing the amount of plant-based foods and lean proteins in your diet and reducing the consumption of processed, high sugar foods. A diet like this will significantly help with your oral health as well! In the pursuit of good gut health, however, many of our patients are adding probiotic drinks like Kombucha and Apple Cider Vinegar to their diets, and this may be where good gut health becomes at odds with good oral health. We wanted to investigate this and find out whether the journey towards optimal gut health can have a negative impact on the oral cavity.
So what are these gut boosting drinks? Kombucha is an organic soft drink made by fermenting tea. The natural fermentation process leaves it packed with goodness; organic enzymes, antioxidants, as well as beneficial yeast and bacteria. It is worth noting that sugar is added during this process. It is also important to check that the Kombucha contains ‘live or active cultures’ or is unpasteurised. If your Kombucha doesn’t contain ‘Live cultures” the health benefits are believed to be minimal, and the product is similar to a commercial soft drink, which we all know that isn’t great for our general and oral health.
Apple cider vinegar is made from crushed apples. Bacteria and yeast are added to make a fermented liquid. Fermentation is a process in which the sugar present in the food is turned to alcohol due to the presence of bacteria and yeast. When fermented further, the alcohol gets converted to vinegar. There are a lot of claims about apple cider vinegar on the internet, indicating that it can increase energy levels and have all sorts of beneficial effects on health. Unfortunately, many of these claims are not supported by science.
We certainly don’t want to scare you away from consuming these products, as they can have many health benefits. It is imperative, however, to understand there can be dental risks if you overindulge or aren’t mindful of how you consume them. The primary issues with these liquids are their pH levels, in other words, how acidic they are. According to the website ‘Kombucha Kamp’, a ‘good’ kombucha should have a pH of between 2.5 and 3.2. This low pH is necessary to maintain healthy microbial activity in this live food. Apple cider vinegar has a pH level of approximately 3.2. Low pH levels like these indicate a high acidity level, which can be detrimental to oral health.
Drinks with a low pH level like those in kombucha and apple cider vinegar can cause the erosion of the hard, outer layer of teeth, exposing the sensitive, yellow coloured dentin underneath. Once this occurs, it can lead to sensitivity when eating and drinking, as well as permanent damage to your teeth.
You can still consume these drinks, and prevent any damage to your teeth by doing the following:
1. Drink kombucha or apple cider vinegar (or other acidic drinks like orange juice, lemon water and soft drink) in one sitting rather than sipping on it throughout the day.
2. Use a straw, drinking through a straw minimises the contact of the acidic liquid with the teeth.
3. To help reduce the damage to your teeth, swish with tap water after finishing to neutralise the acidic environment in the mouth and on the teeth.
4. Chew some sugar-free gum. The chewing mechanism will stimulate your saliva which in turn will bring the pH level to a neutral level faster
5. You can take the additional precaution of putting a little baking soda in tap water and swishing to neutralise the acidic environment further.
Completing regular active maintenance appointments is also important to ensure that any changes to your oral health are diagnosed early. If you are worried about enamel erosion, or you have further questions, our Medland Dental Oral Health Therapists and Hygienists can assist you.