Add vinegar to baking soda and the ensuing reaction is explosive. As the alkaline baking soda comes in contact with the acidic vinegar, a chemical reaction occurs that releases the extra energy in the form of tiny bubbles and the liquid left from the reaction is no longer acidic but has a neutral pH. A school project volcano is born.
The Balancing (Re-)action
It may be hard to believe, but an acid/base reaction like vinegar and baking soda can occur in your mouth every day. The acid comes from bacteria in your mouth feeding on simple starches and sugars in your foods. Acid dissolves minerals out of the tooth enamel, so it’s important to use a neutralizing agent to prevent it from doing damage. Most people do not enjoy the taste of baking soda. Luckily, there’s a much better tasting substance that can do the work—xylitol.
Xylitol is a naturally occurring, sweet tasting substance. When used to sweeten chewing gum or as an appropriate sweetener for oral rinses, it provides several remarkable benefits for oral health, including helping correct pH.
Without the Fireworks…
Xylitol does not correct pH explosively like baking soda does with vinegar. Instead, it acts on the bacteria that make the acids in the oral environment. Oral bacteria cannot use xylitol for energy. However, it is sweet and looks like a sugar, so they will consume it like normal foods. Once full of xylitol, the bacteria starve to death. While they are starving to death, xylitol also interferes with some of the bacteria’s normal activity. Specifically, xylitol prevents the bacteria that consume it from producing acids. The bacteria stop producing enamel damaging acid, and the oral pH has a chance to rebound.
Because xylitol is frequently used in gum, it has a second method of helping oral pH. Chewing gum stimulates saliva. Saliva is the body’s natural mechanism to raise oral pH and the tooth’s great protective fluid. By helping your body make more saliva, xylitol chewing can counteract the damaging effects of dry mouth and raise oral pH to save levels.
So, why do you care about oral pH? Because you don’t like cavities.
Low pH dissolves minerals out of tooth enamel, allowing cavities to form. The bacteria that cause cavities thrive in low pH environments and manufacture acids, keeping the environment low pH. Xylitol has been studied and shown to help maintain healthy oral environments and help prevent and help treat dental caries.