What you need to know:
- Sugar stays on your teeth for a long time. If you do not brush, the bacteria will have time to break down that sugar and cause damage.
- Most plaques form between teeth where toothbrush bristles can't reach easily. Floss regularly to prevent the accumulation of these plaques.
- Saliva neutralises the acid, kills some of the harmful bacteria, and the enamel is constantly undergoing remineralisation.
It's no secret that sugar is bad for your teeth. Your parents kept you off sweets for a good reason. Sugar has been associated with tooth decay, cavities, plaque build-up, and other oral conditions. Why does sugar get most of the blame? We answer that question and offer some tips on how to protect your teeth from the harmful effects of sugar.
Plaques, tooth decay, cavities, and bad breath
Your mouth has millions of bacteria, some beneficial while others cause disease. When you eat foods with sugar or carbohydrates, bacteria break down the sugar to release acids.
The acid erodes the enamel causing cavities. It also damages the gum and may lead to gingivitis and loss of teeth. Over time, the cavity may deepen reaching the inner layers of the tooth – dentin, and pulp. This is the point at which you start to experience tooth sensitivity and pain.
Acid and other by-products of the bacteria's action on sugar cause a foul smell. If you do not brush your teeth properly, the smell accumulates leading to bad breath. However, if the decay has developed to gingivitis, periodontitis, or other gum diseases, the bad breath may persist even after brushing.
How to minimise the effects of sugar on your teeth
Your mouth is always trying to fight cavities caused by acid. Saliva neutralises the acid, kills some of the harmful bacteria, and the enamel is constantly undergoing remineralisation. However, these processes are easily overwhelmed if you do not practice proper dental and oral care.
Some of the steps you can take to protect your teeth include:
- Reduce sugar consumption
Harmful mouth bacteria enjoy your sweet tooth habits just like you do. Your teeth? Not so much. Limit the amount of sugary food you take, including starches to starve the bacteria and reduce the production of enamel-eroding acid.
If you can, avoid sugary drinks altogether, especially carbonated drinks. Many of them have acidic ingredients to add flavour or as preservatives. These cause damage directly even without the action of the bacteria.
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day, and floss regularly
Sugar stays on your teeth for a long time. If you do not brush, the bacteria will time to break down that sugar and cause damage. The longer you wait after eating anything sugary, the more damage it causes. Brush twice a day but if possible three times including before going to bed. Fluoride toothpaste is recommended because it helps in the remineralisation process. Use a soft toothbrush to minimize the abrasion, especially in the areas where the gum has been affected.
Most plaques form between teeth where toothbrush bristles can't reach easily. Floss regularly to prevent the accumulation of these plaques.
- See your dentist regularly
The best way to protect your teeth is to have them checked by a professional. The dentist will remove plaques that survived brushing and flossing. They can also detect early signs of cavities and other oral health problems, and may recommend more aggressive preventive measures including sealants or fluoride treatments.
- Stop snacking, chew sugarless gum instead
Most snacks are sugary. That’s already enough reason to go slow on them. But snacking is even more harmful than regular meals with sugar because it is usually done between meals. Because the snacks are usually in small amounts and at odd hours, most people don’t see the need to brush their teeth or floss afterward. Left on the teeth for hours till your next brushing session, the snacks can cause significant damage to your teeth.
Replace your regular snacks with sugarless gum. It will pick out food particles stuck on, and between teeth helping you keep tooth decay at bay.
Don’t let sugar steal your smile
Sugar is definitely not the only cause of dental and oral diseases, but it is the biggest culprit. The good news is you can protect your teeth by cutting down your sugar consumption to just the necessary carbohydrates, practicing dental care, and making regular visits to the dentist. If there are young ones in your care, protect them too by keeping them off sweets and other sugary stuff.