How Does Sugar Affect Your Teeth?
The first thing you hear as a kid in regards to your dental health is: “sugar is bad for your teeth”. Your parents and dentist tell you not to eat any candy or bubble gum to avoid cavities growing on your teeth. But have you ever stopped to think about how does sugar really affect your teeth? How does it help cavities to grow on your teeth?
Well, keep reading to know all you need to know about how sugar affects your dental health and why dentists are so insistent for patients to lower their consumption.
Effects of Sugar on Your Mouth and Teeth
It is important for us to first know how your mouth’s environment works in order to better understand how to keep your dental health on point. First of all, we all know our mouth holds a lot of bacteria. But not all bacteria in your mouth are bad bacteria. Your mouth is constantly battling between good and bad bacteria.
When you ingest sugary food, your bad bacteria will look to digest it. And in this process, bad bacteria will increase your mouth’s acidity.
When bacteria feed on sugar, it starts producing acids that affect your dental health and can damage your teeth by removing essential minerals from your teeth's enamel. The enamel is a shell that protects the weaker tissues of your teeth and it also makes them look shiny. If you damage this tissue, the inner part of your tooth (which is the most fragile one) will have no protection whatsoever.
Saliva is great at helping your enamel to regenerate whenever there’s some minor damage. But if you continue to ingest big portions of sugary foods or beverages, the effect of saliva may not be enough to keep your teeth healthy. Constant acid attacks will make your teeth weaker and weaker.
A cavity is formed when your enamel is damaged and a hole appears on your tooth. Cavities can appear when your mouth acidity is too high and your enamel weakens, providing no protection to your tooth.
So, to sum it up, sugar gives bad bacteria what they need to attack you by increasing your mouth’s acidity levels and lastly damaging your enamel. A weak enamel will most likely result in a cavity (dentists’ worst enemy!)
Effects of Sugar on Your Gums
Your mouth and teeth are not the only ones affected by sugar. The increase in your mouth’s acidity will also damage your gums. While this does not necessarily mean you will get a cavity, there are other dental diseases that can affect your dental health if you don’t take care of your gums.
Gingivitis and periodontitis (also known as gum disease) can both appear due to a high intake of sugars. Bad bacteria and high levels of acidity in your mouth will also damage your gums, which are the support of your teeth.
If your gums are damaged, this can result in the destruction of your teeth’s protective tissue, which holds them together.
Which Sugary Foods and Drinks to Avoid?
The best way to keep your dental health on point is to lower (or even completely eliminate) the intake of sugary foods and drinks. This way you can decrease the “acid attacks” on your mouth and keep your enamels and gums strong, which will ultimately protect your teeth.
Some of the worst sugary foods for your teeth are now available in a sugar-free presentation. However, if you’re not a big fan of those, here is a list of sugary foods and drinks you should avoid:
Candies that stick to your teeth: these will stick around longer and have bad bacteria increase your mouth’s acid levels for a longer time. So try to avoid lollipops and caramels by all means if you want to help your mouth with your dental health.
Foods with high levels of starch: starch is basically lots of sugar molecules together (so “sugary foods” are not only sweet foods). The main starchy food you should avoid is potato chips since they can get stuck between your teeth and take longer to wash off from your mouth.
Carbonated drinks: kids (and lots of adults) LOVE sodas. This is actually the main source of sugar consumption among kids since they are loaded with added sugars. Lowering (or better yet, eliminating) the intake of sodas will help with dental health.
Other Forms of Sugar
While refined sugar is the first thing we think about when we talk about “sugary foods”, there are other forms of sugar that may also affect your dental health. And you can even find them on the so-called “healthy snacks”.
Some other types of sugar you should avoid to keep your teeth healthy and yourself away from the dentist's office are honey, maple syrup, molasses, fructose, dextrose, and fruit juice concentrate.
Before buying any “healthy snack”, make sure you read the entire list of ingredients, as sugar may hide in plain sight. Some trending store-bought healthy snacks may contain large amounts of sugars (and you don’t even know about it). The recommendation here is to actually make these at home instead so you know exactly what you’re taking into your mouth.
Some healthy snacks to look out for are: smoothies, some yogurt brands, and energy bars. If you have a sugar-free option, definitely go for that! Trust us, your dental health will appreciate it!
Tips to Protect Your Teeth after Consuming Sugary Foods or Drinks
While it is true that eliminating all types of sugars from your diet would be ideal for your dental health, it is also true that this is a very radical and unrealistic solution. You shouldn’t punish yourself to try to keep your teeth healthy. So here are some tips you can follow to keep your dental health on point while also consuming a moderate amount of sugar.
Book a dental appointment at least every 6 months. This way you can keep track of your cavities, gums, and general dental health.
Brush your teeth 3 times a day, especially after every meal, and floss once a day.
Rinse your mouth after consuming any sugary drinks or foods (this way you will wash off any sugar from your mouth right away).
Avoid smoking by all means.
Avoid drinking excessive alcohol.