Football season is upon us, and whether that means it’s Giants season or Jets season, it probably means it’s also Buffalo wing season.

Buffalo wings got their start in Buffalo, New York, though there are varying claims to their invention. The common denominator is fried, nonbreaded chicken wings that are coated in hot sauce. But have you ever considered if your teeth are cool with hot sauce?

hot wings sitting on a plate, ready to eat

Hot Sauce Sales Heating Up

Americans are consuming more hot sauce than ever. Hot sauce sales topped $600 million in the United States in 2015, according to a CNBC report, and almost hit $2 billion globally.

Craft hot sauces made with exotic peppers and novel flavor blends have helped fuel the trend. Even traditional hot sauce brands like Tabasco, Frank’s and Cholula have expanded their flavor combinations.

Hot Sauce and Your Teeth: The Acid Test

Sugar is rotten for our teeth because it nourishes certain bacteria in the mouth that produce acid as a byproduct. The acid progressively erodes the enamel, the protective outer layer of the teeth.

But some beverages and foods, including hot sauce, are already acidic without additional aid from oral bacteria. When it comes to hot sauce, however, chili peppers are often unfairly blamed for the acidity due to their heat and the digestive distress they can cause.

Chili peppers are actually low in acid. The acidity in most hot sauces is derived from vinegar or other acidic ingredients such as citrus fruits or canned tomatoes. The pH of a vinegar-based hot sauce may be as low as 2.75. Anything below 5.5 will begin to dissolve tooth enamel. And each pH point means an acid is 10 times stronger, so hot sauce is about 1000 times stronger than necessary to dissolve tooth enamel. With the thick sauce clinging to your teeth, this can cause significant damage.

Stain and Burn: Protecting Your Teeth

The source of chili peppers’ heat is capsaicin, a naturally occurring compound that provokes a burning sensation when it comes in contact with skin. The hotness of a given type of chili pepper is measured by the Scoville scale, which provides a heat index based on a pepper’s capsaicin concentration.

This heat, in conjunction with the acidic ingredients of hot sauce, can prompt discomfort in those with sensitive teeth. If you’re a hot sauce fanatic who consumes the condiment with regularity, the combination of acid and dark coloration of the sauce can also stain your teeth.

Some of the effects of the acidity can be offset by drinking water with hot sauce-heavy foods or by rinsing with water afterward (brushing your teeth immediately after consuming acidic foods or drinks can actually further damage the enamel; it’s best to wait a couple hours after eating before you brush). Food-related teeth discoloration can generally be reversed with teeth whitening treatment.

The Power of Peppers

Thanks to the power of chili peppers, hot sauces offer some health benefits. Chili peppers are stocked with antioxidants, vitamins and other healthful elements.

In particular, chili peppers have high concentrations of vitamin C, which contributes to healthy teeth, bones and skin, and vitamin A, an antioxidant that promotes ocular health. And in spite of capsaicin’s effects on your mouth and stomach, it possesses analgesic properties and is an ingredient in some topical pain-relief medications.

Rockland County cosmetic dentist Dr. Mark Dunayer knows that a beautiful smile also has health benefits. If you’re seeking compassionate, comprehensive dental care in the West Nyack, NY, area please call B & D Dental Excellence today at (845) 627-7645 to learn how we can help you maintain a healthy smile for life.