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The Spicy Food Paradox

Posted by: Dr. Sirakian     Categories: Uncategorized

As you may already know, dental caries (cavities) are caused by bacteria-eating carbohydrates that get stuck in teeth and leave acid behind. This acid then erodes away at the enamel of teeth, causing cavities that, if left untreated, could result in more serious dental issues.

Luckily the body has some protection against the bacteria and acid in the form of saliva. The saliva acts as a sort of mouth rinse that washes away debris and makes the mouth less acidic. In fact, many people chew sugar-free gum for this very reason. The gum stimulates saliva flow and helps clean the mouth.

But there might be other ways to stimulate saliva flow. Recently, researchers confirmed what many spice aficionados would tell you, that spicy foods provide extra salivary stimulation. More specifically, they found that capsaicin, the chemical that makes chili peppers spicy, stimulates salivary glands in human and animals, even in dysfunctional transplanted salivary glands.

But before you go bite a chili pepper for your teeth’s sake, it’s worth remembering that, for some people, spicy food might trigger increased acidity in the mouth. Some people suffer from a condition called acid reflux (more commonly known as heartburn), where the acid from the stomach climbs through the esophagus and into the mouth, making it a more acidic environment. If acid is the culprit behind tooth decay, then it should come as no surprise that people who have acid reflux are also more likely to have enamel erosion.

This paradox of spicy food stimulating the salivary glands but also potentially causing acid reflux can be confusing, but if you consult with your dentist you can get a better idea of your risk. Don’t hesitate to ask at your next appointment!

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Many parents have the misconception that teething causes diarrhea. What’s the correlation, you may ask? It is believed that the excess saliva that comes with teething can affect the gastrointestinal system. However, although there is no evidence of a causal relationship, this idea may not be completely baseless, as teething babies put a variety of […]

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Straighter Teeth in a Snap

Turns out you can have straighter teeth by mail! Well, at least that is what a few by-mail-only orthodontia companies believe. In an effort to help patients save money, some orthodontic companies are having patients send their impressions to them by mail instead of going in for a dentist’s consultation. While this approach may save […]

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Alligators and Dental Science?

Did you know alligators can replace each of their teeth up to 50 times in their life? Humans are unique among vertebrates for being able to replace our teeth only once. But new insights into how alligators replace their teeth may help stimulate the same process in ours. Professor Cheng-Ming Chuong, M.D., Ph.D., has discovered […]

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Fruits for Whiter Teeth?

Recently hailed as an inexpensive and organic alternative to teeth whitening, fruit concoctions have arisen as the new way to get those pearly whites. But is there any truth to all these claims? A study at the University of Iowa points to “No”. Associate Professor So Ran Kwon tested homemade strawberry-baking soda mix, over the […]

Feb
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BPA Exposure Affects Young Teeth

From the moment they erupt in our mouths as children, our teeth play a major part in our lives. As such, it’s essential to care for them well during childhood and continuing into adulthood. In a recent study done with lab rats, it was found that when teeth were exposed to BPA, “there were multiple […]

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