You’ve probably always heard that sugar can be bad for your teeth. But why? Is it the sugar you eat doing damage to your teeth? Actually, it’s the chain of events that occurs after eating sugar that’s problematic for your teeth. Here’s a closer look at the dangers of sugar for your teeth and a few actions you can take to reduce the effects of sugar when you do eat it.
Sugar and Tooth Decay
Tooth decay takes place when acids in the mouth begin attacking the dentine and enamel of the teeth, resulting in cavities. This acid is made by bacteria in the mouth found in plaque, which is a thin, sticky film that coats teeth. What happens when you add sugar? When you eat sugar, the bacteria feed on the sugars, resulting in the production of more acid. The acid then begins dissolving the tooth enamel, resulting in a cavity. Unfortunately, if tooth decay is severe enough, a tooth may need to be removed.
Multiple studies have been done on sugar and tooth decay. One study was published in the Journal of Dental Research and took a closer look at the association between sugar intake and cavities. The study found that reducing sugar intake resulted in fewer cavities, not only in childhood but later in life as well. Other studies have also found that there’s a connection between consuming sugar-containing foods and beverages and the development of dental caries.
One of the best things you can do to prevent cavities is to start cutting down on the amount of sugar you consume. Eating foods with natural sugars, such as fruits, are a great replacement for sugary treats like candies, cookies, and cakes. Of course, while cutting back on your sugar intake can make a huge difference, you may enjoy having a sweet treat now and then. When you do, you can take a few steps to prevent damage to your teeth when you do consume sugar, including:
- Reduce Exposure Time to Sugar – If you’re going to eat a sweet treat, work to reduce the exposure time of your teeth to the sugar. Don’t snack on sugary things through the day. The longer your teeth are exposed to the sugar, the greater the damage can be.
- Drink Plenty of Water – After you eat something with sugar, drink plenty of water. Swish the water around in your mouth to help wash sugar off teeth. Drinking plenty of water can also keep the mouth hydrated and moist, which is essential because saliva has important minerals that work to repair damage to teeth.
- Drink Sweet Drinks with a Straw – If you or your child plan to indulge in a sweet drink, such as juice or soda, make sure that you use a straw. Using a straw helps minimize the contact teeth have with the sugar, allowing the drink to go right to the back of the mouth instead of bathing teeth in the sugary drink.
- Brush and Floss Regularly – Routine brushing and flossing is so essential to protecting teeth from cavities. However, don’t immediately brush after you eat something with sugar. Wait about an hour and then go brush your teeth. When teeth are being attacked by acids, brushing at that time can damage tooth enamel even more. Wait for an hour after having sugar and then go brush. Remember, you should be brushing at least twice a day for the best results.
Of course, while these steps can help, it’s still essential to work in controlling your sugar intake. Lowering your sugar intake and eating foods that help improve oral health is important. For example, dairy products have phosphates and calcium that can make teeth stronger, and dairy products make better snacks than starchy or sugary treats. Eating fibrous fruits and veggies is also great for your teeth, since they help clean teeth and offer important vitamins and minerals for improved oral health. Add regular dental exams and routine cleanings to the mix and you’ll be well armed to reduce the effects of sugar to your teeth.