How Does Salt Affect Your Smile?
- Author Dr. Jason Kboudi
- Published April 29, 2022
- Word count 530
Most people already know about how sweets and acidic drinks can lead to cavities, but these are far from the only kinds of foods that can affect oral health. Salt has been shown to have an effect on the teeth; the question is, is it a good effect or a bad effect? The answer a dentist will give you is that when it comes to oral health, salt has its share of pros and cons, and you should be aware of them when deciding whether or not to cut back on the sodium in your diet.
How Salt Can Benefit the Teeth
If you’ve recently had oral surgery done, or if you’re currently suffering from some kind of dental infection, your dentist may suggest rinsing with salt water. This is because salt is a natural disinfectant. It can raise the pH balance in your mouth, creating an environment where it’s more difficult for harmful bacteria to survive. It also helps reduce any uncomfortable swelling in your mouth.
Salt can also help your smile in indirect ways when used as an ingredient in toothpaste. In addition to fighting bacteria, it also gives the toothpaste a foaming consistency. This is done to keep the toothpaste in your mouth where it can do the most good. Furthermore, salt is mildly abrasive; as long as it’s mixed with other ingredients so as not to damage the teeth too much, it can be quite effective in removing plaque from your enamel.
How Salt Can Harm the Teeth
Unfortunately, even though salt-based oral hygiene products are good for your smile, the same cannot be said for salt-rich foods. This is because foods that are rich in sodium are often carbohydrates like bread, pasta, and crackers. Carbohydrates can slowly break down into simple sugars and starches, which oral bacteria can feed on and turn into acid that erodes the enamel. In other words, eating too many salt-rich foods can increase your risk for tooth decay.
Salt can also affect calcium levels. Excessive amounts of salt can cause the body to excrete more calcium than usual. This can lead to osteoporosis, a disease that thins and weakens your bones. If osteoporosis occurs in your jawbone, it can eventually cause your teeth to become loose and even fall out altogether.
Benefits of Lower Salt Intake
In general, reducing the amount of salt in your diet will make it easier to protect your smile and avoid osteoporosis. It can also benefit your general health as well by reducing the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke; it also aids in preventing dehydration as well as issues with water retention. Of course, you can still take advantage of salt water rinses and salt-based toothpastes to protect your teeth. Just make sure you spit them out when you’re done.
If you think too many salty foods might be having an impact on your oral health, talk to your dentist. Once they’re done checking and cleaning your teeth, they can help you review your regular diet to see what foods might be putting you at risk, and they can give you suggestions for healthier alternatives.
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