salt shaker sodium teeth mark indrek reichman OFMS

March is National Nutrition Month: Watch Your Sodium Intake!

Sodium consumption has always been understand as bad for overall health. Too much dietary sodium is strongly associated with high blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association. In this blog post, Dr. Mark Reichman weighs in on sodium’s affect on your oral health?

We generally visualize sodium as salt. But salt in itself does not damage tooth enamel. It’s the vessel that salt travels in that contributes to tooth decay – unhealthy foods. Sodium and carbohydrates often partner up, especially as processed foods.

Oral bacteria feasts on simple sugars and produces tough acids whenever you consume any food or beverage that contains carbohydrates. The acids are kept in contact with tooth enamel by plaque that forms in your mouth throughout the day. The longer it remains in your mouth, the more damaged the tooth enamel becomes. This damage is best avoided by avoiding sodium-rich foods. The American Heart Association does not recommend using salt liberally in your diet. Especially if these foods are sugary and high in carbs, they should be enjoyed in moderation. Pizza, pasta, breads, and snacks like pretzels and chips are among the top sources of sodium in the American diet, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even though these foods are relatively low in sugar, their starches can be metabolizes into simple sugars by the enzymes in your mouth. The starches are further broken down to generate the same corrosive acids as foods high in sugar. Packaged, processed food generally contribute to increased potential for tooth decay.

Rather than consuming sodium, applying it to your teeth and using it as a mouthwash is actually beneficial. The American Dental Association approves sodium lauryl sulfate and other sodium-based compounds as foaming detergents in toothpaste. Mild salt rinses are often recommended to soothe tooth sores and cleanse bacterial infections.

It is recommended that an elderly person maintain a <2300 mg/d level of daily sodium consumption. Even though there statistics aren’t strict requiring one to limit their salt intake, it is still advised that the elderly keep a conservative reign on their sodium intake. A recent study by the Institute of Medicine shows was no significant evidence proving a correlation between consumption of sodium and mortality rates among the elderly.

Here are links to the Institute of Medicine studies and other resources to further your understanding:

Assessment of Sodium Intake

Study Archive


If you’re looking for more help with your oral health, schedule an appointment with Dr. Mark Reichman today.

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