Sugar, as many know, is a delicious and fun addition to lots of foods. But it can have a very dark side to it as well. Sugar has been shown to cause major tooth decay and bacterial issues over time. How does this happen though? And after how much time? How can you take good care of your teeth, while also enjoying some of your favorite sugary treats? Understanding how sugar affects your teeth is an important part of good oral hygiene and below, we dive into how sugar affects teeth, and how you can protect those pearly whites from issues down the road.
How Does Your Mouth Process Sugar?
When we eat sugary foods, sugar combines with saliva and bacteria that forms a sticky film called plaque, which can soften and break through the enamel to dentin and pulp to form a cavity. Plaque can also irritate gums, causing inflammation and gum disease. Bacteria in your mouth also love to feed from sugar and can grow rapidly when sugar is constantly present. This especially leads to cavities and tooth decay.
Looking more specifically at how these cavities are formed, this bacteria produces acids that continue to eat into your enamel, creating small holes. For example, studies have shown that a select group of harmful bacteria produce acid in your mouth whenever they encounter and digest sugar. The bacteria can then move into these holes and continue to eat away at the tooth, eventually reaching the next tooth layer, the dentin, which is much softer and easier to penetrate than enamel.
Once the bacteria breach this layer, you’re in for a lot of pain and sensitivity as the bacteria continue onto your tooth pulp and, eventually, even your jawbone. Keep in mind, the bacteria doesn’t just stop at the tooth or pulp. It can also attack the gums where it also creates deep pockets for disease.
Bacteria need a food source, which is where sugar comes in. Even a small coating of sugar on your teeth can be a feast for these bacteria, allowing them to grow faster and form plaque more easily. The more sugar you eat, the higher chance you have of developing decay and cavities.
How To Protect Your Teeth from Sugar Decay
Both tooth decay and gum disease are preventable with good oral hygiene and a careful evaluation of your diet.While your mouth is designed to try and fight off bacteria, it can’t catch everything, especially when you feed it poorly. We recommend the following steps below to help in your care.
Brush Your Teeth
Seems straightforward. But many people forget to do this. Brushing is your first line of defense against tooth decay and the negative effects of sugar on teeth. It gently removes bacteria from your teeth while also removing their food source. Keep to a regular, twice a day brushing routine for best results.
Avoid Sugar Residue
Almost every food contains sugar in some form or other, making it very difficult to keep your mouth sugar-free at all times. Eating sugar isn’t a problem, as long as you remove traces of sugar from your mouth as soon as possible. Super sugary treats that stay in your mouth are the worst culprits of tooth decay. Chewy foods or sugary drinks can linger for hours, giving your oral bacteria plenty of food for growth. If you do eat food that stays in your mouth, remove the excess by brushing or using mouthwash to remove.
Control Your Sugar Intake
Carbohydrates have sugars and are one of the major food groups. It’s impossible to eliminate them entirely from your diet. Instead, be aware of your sugar intake, and take steps to mitigate the risks. Remember that even healthy snacks can have a lot of hidden sugars and carbohydrates, including:
- Trail mix
- Salad dressing
- Dried fruit
Visit Your Dentist or Endodontist
The best way to protect your teeth from the effects of sugar is to regularly see a dentist/endodontist for a teeth cleaning to remove some of the hardest bits of plaque and to identify and treat cavities and gum disease as early as possible. If you’re experiencing tooth pain, gum pain, gums pulling away from teeth, or deep, dark pockets in your teeth, be sure to schedule an appointment immediately to address the issue.
Even if there aren’t any major concerns and you’re just looking for a regular cleaning or need questions addressed around better tooth care for you or your family, be sure to book an appointment with us here at Endodontic Specialists today!