We love our hot sauce in Texas. For many, it’s a standard condiment with breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The Lone Star State is home to more hot sauce celebrations than we can count, although we’re partial to the annual Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival, which recently celebrated its 26th anniversary. But are our teeth cool with all this hot sauce?
Hot Sauce: A Bold and Spicy Business
In America, hot sauce these days is selling like hotcakes. According to a recent CNBC report, hot sauce sales exceeded $600 million in the United States in 2015, and nearly reached $2 billion worldwide.
Craft hot sauces featuring exotic peppers and intriguing flavor combinations have exploded as a niche market. Even standbys like Tabasco have added to their offerings.
Acid Test: Hot Sauce and Teeth
Sugar is harmful to our teeth because bacteria in the mouth feed on it and produce acids that eat away the enamel. Some foods, like hot sauce, are already acidic.
The common denominator in all hot sauces is some type of chili pepper. Yet chili peppers, like their milder counterparts, are actually low-acid foods. In most hot sauces, the acidity comes from vinegar and/or a combination of other acidic ingredients such as canned tomatoes or citrus.
Chili peppers draw their heat from a compound known as capsaicin, which produces a burning sensation when it comes in contact with our skin. A pepper’s “heat” is indexed by the Scoville scale, which measures its capsaicin concentration.
Teeth May Feel the Burn
Due to the acidity of many hot sauces, and the heat associated with the peppers, hot sauce may trigger discomfort in those with teeth sensitivity. With routine consumption, the combination of acidity and dark coloration in hot sauces may also contribute to stained teeth (discoloration can often be reversed with teeth whitening).
However, we’re not suggesting you avoid hot sauce. You can offset some of the acidity by rinsing with and drinking water after enjoying a hot sauce-heavy meal or snack. Besides, hot sauces are not without health benefits.
Like their relatives the bell peppers, chili peppers—the key ingredient in hot sauce—are loaded with vitamins, antioxidants and other healthy compounds.
Hot peppers are high in vitamin C, which contributes to skin, teeth and bone health, and vitamin A, which is essential to vision and has antioxidant properties. And despite what capsaicin does to your mouth, the compound actually has analgesic properties and is used in some topical pain-relief ointments.
Just as hot sauce has health benefits, so does a beautiful smile. Austin cosmetic dentist Dr. Dan Matthews is dedicated to helping patients restore bright, healthy smiles. If you’d like to learn more about your options, please call Dan Matthews, DDS, FAGD, today at 512-520-0606 to schedule your consultation at our Bee Cave Road office.