It’s a known fact that consuming large amounts of sugar is bad for your teeth. It’s something that parents tell their kids to get them to lay off the candy, then the anecdote sticks through adulthood.
But what is it about sugar that’s so bad for dental hygiene? This article breaks down the facts on how sugar affects your teeth and what you can do to maintain your dental health.
It’s All About Bacteria
Sugar itself isn’t what rots your teeth, it’s how the bacteria in your mouth react when you eat sugar. A select group of them produce acid when they come into contact with bacteria, which then removes minerals from your tooth enamel. Saliva naturally combats this process, but there’s only so much it can do when you eat and drink sugary thing after sugary thing, sometimes all day long. It can only keep up to a certain point.
Cavities happen when saliva can’t keep up with repairs. When cavities go untreated, they spread to deeper parts of the tooth which can be very painful and can even result in losing the tooth.
The more sugar you eat, the more these bacteria that break down your tooth enamel are attracted to your mouth. It’s a harmful cycle.
Fighting Tooth Decay
But it doesn’t have to be a losing battle! There are plenty of things you can do to ward off cavities and keep your teeth healthy for years to come.
Most everything is fine in moderation. It’s only when you start overdoing it on the sugary snacks and drinks that your tooth enamel takes a real hit. This means that, while you don’t have to completely eradicate sweets from your diet, you should only consume them in moderation.
Along with keeping sweet and sticky foods to a minimum, it’s also key to practice good oral hygiene. Flossing and brushing your teeth at least twice a day, especially with toothpaste that includes fluoride (fluoride also helps to rebuild tooth enamel) is integral to keeping tooth enamel stay intact.
Keeping up saliva flow is also important for replacing the minerals on teeth. Chewing gum that’s sugar-free or contains Xylitol encourages saliva and prevents plaque build-up.
Most importantly, it’s good to make a habit of visiting the dentist every 6 months to make sure that everything inside your mouth – teeth, gums, and all – is healthy and stable.