You probably know that sugar is bad for your teeth, but you may be wondering why that is. Here, our Calgary dentists explain why sugar is so harmful to teeth, how it contributes to tooth decay, and what can be done to prevent it.
Why Is Sugar Harmful to Teeth?
It may surprise you to learn that it's not actually the sugar itself that causes damage to teeth, but rather the chemical process that takes place inside your mouth after you consume it.
Your mouth is full of hundreds of different types of bacteria, many of which are beneficial and a necessary component of a healthy mouth. However, there are also certain harmful types of bacteria. These feed on the sugar you eat and produce acids that erode tooth enamel, causing dental decay and cavities.
Without treatment, cavities grow and will eventually progress past the enamel into the interior layers of the tooth, resulting in pain, and ultimately, tooth loss.
Your mouth has a natural process, called remineralization, for reversing the damaging effects of acids on the enamel. Remineralization occurs daily, after attack by acids, through the presence of calcium, phosphate and fluoride in the saliva.
These minerals are deposited into crystal voids in demineralized enamel, helping to strengthen the enamel and prevent decay and cavities. Saliva also neutralizes acid, preventing demineralisation from occurring in the first place.
That said, there is only so much the remineralization process can do to prevent tooth decay if you consume lots of sugar and starches throughout the day. For this reason, keeping your sugar intake to a minimum is essential for avoiding tooth decay.
Preventing Decay & Encouraging Remineralization
Follow the steps below to help reduce the effects of bacterial acids on the teeth.
Consume Less Sugar
If you consume lots of sugar on a regular basis, find ways to reduce your intake. Choose fruits and vegetables for snacks, drink water instead of juice and pop, and reduce your consumption of starches.
Stimulate Saliva Flow
Effective remineralization requires a healthy salivary flow. To achieve this, be sure to stay hydrated, and eat lots of fibrous vegetables.
Maintain Good Oral Hygiene
Regular brushing and flossing (at least twice a day) will help remove food debris and bacteria from your mouth. Consider adding a third brushing session in the afternoon, or rinsing with mouthwash. Be sure to visit your dentist every six months for a professional cleaning as well.
Supplement with Fluoride
Fluoride is a mineral that helps prevent tooth decay, and it can even reverse it in the early stages. Talk to your dentist about your fluoride intake. If you can increase it, consider brushing with a fluoridated toothpaste, or using fluoridated mouthwash.