We all know that sugar can harm your teeth, leading to enamel loss, tooth decay, and even tooth loss. But what makes sugar so bad for oral health? Surprisingly, it’s not necessarily the sugar itself that causes your oral health to decline. Instead, it’s a chain reaction inside of your mouth that happens as soon as sugar particles are introduced. Learn more about how sugar impacts your oral health below (including how to minimize the damage caused by your favorite sugary treats).
How does sugar create cavities?
There are more than six billion bacteria in your mouth. Don’t panic – not all of them are bad! Some of them are helpful strains of bacteria, which you need in order to break down food particles and keep the “bad” bacteria in check. When bad bacteria grows unchecked, your mouth becomes the perfect environment for cavities and decay.
One of the ways that bad bacteria increase in your mouth is through an increase in acids, which occurs when you eat sugar. That’s because sugar is converted into acid by your “good” bacteria as part of your body’s natural processes. Too much acid (or acid that is left to linger) will erode enamel, leaving your teeth susceptible to decay and bacterial infection – in other words, cavities.
What helps restore teeth after acid damage?
You may not be able to avoid acid production in your mouth altogether – or the damage it causes – but you can help rebuild your teeth. Acids decrease the strength of your enamel by removing vital minerals such as calcium and phosphate. This process is called demineralization.
Remineralization will help restore those minerals and rebuild your enamel strength. One way that remineralization occurs is through your saliva production, and another is through fluoride. Drinking fluoride-enhanced water and using toothpaste and mouthwash that contains fluoride are easy, efficient ways to boost the remineralization process and repair damage caused by acids. You can also get a professional fluoride treatment on your next dental visit to significantly reduce your risk of cavities.
Here are some additional ways that you can remineralize your teeth:
- Chewing sugarless gum – Chewing gum stimulates your salivary glands, causing more saliva to flow into your mouth. This will ensure that your teeth are getting the maximum amount of calcium and phosphate to repair enamel.
- Eating dairy products – Cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products contain high amounts of calcium and phosphates. Not only will these provide additional strength to your teeth, but they can also serve as a healthier snack option (instead of digging into a bowl of candy).
- Drinking tea – Black and green teas have tons of benefits for your oral health. Not only do they contain fluoride, but they also have polyphenols. These micronutrients fight back against gum disease and inflammation while killing off harmful bacteria. Black and green teas also have antioxidants, which help your body stave off damage from free radicals. (Just be careful not to counteract the benefits of teas by adding sweet or acidic flavors, such as honey or lemon.)
Now that you understand how sugar decreases your oral health, make a commitment to limit your sugar intake as much as possible! Make sure to brush your teeth as soon as possible after consuming sugar to ensure that acid doesn’t linger on your teeth and create cavities. If you think you might have a cavity developing – or want to schedule a fluoride treatment – call TruBlu Dentistry today!