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How Sugar Affects Your Teeth

How Sugar Affects Your Teeth

Most people would say that it is fairly common knowledge that sugar is bad for your teeth, but this has not always been the case. In fact, it is believed that ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle was the first to observe that sweet food like soft figs lead to tooth decay, but not too surprisingly nobody believed him at that time. However, as science has progressed, we now know that beyond any doubt, that sugar is bad for your teeth and that is causes tooth decay. That said, sugar on its own is not the culprit. Rather, it is the basic chain of events that takes place when teeth are exposed to sugar that causes the problems. This article takes a detailed look at how sugar affects your teeth and how you can prevent tooth decay.

Your Mouth Is a Battleground

Many different types of bacteria naturally are found and will live in your mouth at any given time. Some are beneficial to your dental health, but others are harmful and interact with the process of how sugar affects your teeth. “For example, studies have shown that a select group of harmful bacteria produce acid in your mouth whenever they encounter and digest sugar. These acids remove minerals from the tooth enamel, which is the shiny, protective, outer layer of your tooth. This process is called demineralization. The good news is that your saliva helps to constantly reverse this damage in a natural process called remineralization. The minerals in your saliva, such as calcium and phosphate, in addition to fluoride from toothpaste and water, help the enamel repair itself by replacing minerals lost during an “acid attack.” This helps strengthen your teeth” (Healthline).

However, when there is a prolonged and constant cycle of acid attacks this can eventually lead to mineral loss in the enamel of the teeth. Over time, this weakens and destroys the enamel, forming a cavity, that painful hole in the tooth that exposes the delicate inner parts and nerve roots. A cavity is the result of harmful bacteria in your mouth feeding on the sugar in food that is stuck to your teeth and producing acids that eat into the tooth. If left untreated, the cavity can spread into the deeper layers of the tooth, causing pain and possible tooth loss if the roots are affected or become damaged. The most common signs of tooth decay include a toothache, pain when chewing and biting, sensitivity to sweet, hot or cold foods and drinks, as well as pain while brushing and talking. In severe cases, the pain may be constant and throb and sting all the time, regardless of what you are doing. Anyone who has had a cavity knows how painful they can be and this is why it is important to understand how sugar affects your teeth!

tooth pain from too much sugar

Sugar Attracts Bad Bacteria and Lowers Mouth’s pH

When you know how sugar affects your teeth you will come to see that it is like a magnet for bad bacteria. “The two destructive bacteria found in the mouth are Streptococcus mutans  and Streptococcus sorbrinus. Both of them feed on the sugar you eat and form dental plaque, which is a sticky, colorless film that forms on the surface of the teeth. If the plaque is not washed away by saliva or brushing, the environment in the mouth becomes more acidic and cavities may start to form” (Healthline). The pH scale measures how acidic or basic a solution is, with 7 being neutral. When the pH of plaque drops below normal, or less than 5.5, the acidity starts to dissolve minerals and destroy the tooth’s enamel. When you eat a lot of sugar and do not brush and floss it away and clean the surface of your teeth and gums properly the acidity gets worse and the decay of the enamel worsens.

Tips to Fight Tooth Decay

Now that you know how sugar affects your teeth you, of course, want to know how you can fight tooth decay and limit your sugar intake and reduce our chances for cavities. Below are some ways you can fight tooth decay.

Watch What You Eat and Drink

“Make sure to eat a balanced diet rich in whole grains, fresh fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. If you do eat sugary foods and sweetened or acidic beverages, have them with your meals, instead of between them. Also, consider using a straw when drinking sugary and acidic beverages. This will give your teeth less exposure to the sugar and acid in the drinks. Furthermore, add raw fruit or vegetables to your meals to increase the flow of saliva in your mouth. Finally, do not allow infants to sleep with bottles containing sweetened liquids, fruit juices or formula milk” (Healthline).

Cut Down on Sugar

Foods that are very sticky and sweet should only be eaten occasionally and when you do indulge, you need to make sure you are following proper dental care and hygiene practices. If you do give in and eat sweet foods brush as soon as you can afterward and if you cannot brush you should at least drink some water or go to the bathroom and rinse your mouth several times with warm water.  Also, avoid sipping on sweet drinks like soda and juice. This exposes your teeth to sugar and acid attacks for longer periods of time. Instead, drink water as it has no acid, sugar, or calories.

Practice Good Oral Hygiene

Not surprisingly, also oral hygiene also must come into play if you want to fight how sugar affects your teeth. Brushing at least twice per day is an important step in preventing cavities and tooth decay- at the very least before you go to bed  and in the middle of the day. You can further keep tabs on your overall oral hygiene by using mouthwash and floss at least once a day, more if you are able to. Additionally, stimulating saliva flow helps bathe the teeth in beneficial minerals and helps the body naturally wash your teeth and keep food particles off of the enamel surface. Chewing sugar-free gum may also prevent plaque build-up and remove food that may get stuck between the teeth. Lastly, nothing ensures keeping your teeth and gums healthy like visiting your dentist every six months and following all of their guidelines and instructions. They understand better than anyone how sugar affects your teeth so be sure to follow their advice and make the most of their expertise.

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Contact Us Today

If you or a loved one needs help with their dental care or if you have questions about taking care of your teeth and cutting sugar out of your diet give us a call. We here at Comfort Care Family Dental are ready to go to work for you and will help you take care of your teeth and gums.  Whether you already have cavities, have been told you are at risk for them or have perfectly healthy teeth and gums, you need to have a good understanding of how sugar affects your teeth and what you can do to combat these effects. Contact us today for an appointment and let us help!  You owe it to yourself to take care of your teeth so call now and take the first step to better oral health!

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