Most of us are taught from a very young age that sugar is bad for our teeth, but sometimes we’re not told why. And that’s a shame because understanding how sugar affects your teeth and your overall oral health is both interesting and educational. Knowing more helps us make better decisions about oral hygiene, diet, and other life choices. So, how does sugar affect your teeth? Let’s take a look–some of the answers might surprise you.
Sugar, Bacteria, and Your Mouth
Sugar itself is pretty neutral when it comes to your teeth, but the way it interacts with the bacteria in your mouth can cause serious problems indeed. The human mouth is full of bacteria, too small for us to see but present in large numbers. Some of them are benign or even helpful to our health, some of them are harmful. The danger of sugar when it comes to your teeth is that sugar feeds harmful bacteria, causing them to multiply quickly. As they grow in numbers, they consume more sugar and produce acids as a waste product. These acids do several things, like causing tooth damage including enamel decay and cavities, and gum diseases like gingivitis.
These may sound like minor problems but left untreated enamel decay, cavities, and gum disease can lead to tooth loss or other permanent damage. This is something most of us want to avoid–a smile is meant to last a lifetime! So now that we know how sugar affects your teeth, what can we do about it?
Sugar and Oral Hygiene
Fortunately, limiting the impact that sugar has on your teeth and gums is a simple matter of building good habits. As with so many other aspects of oral health, the foundation rests largely on a regular and effective brush and flossing habits. By cleaning our teeth three times a day via brushing, flossing, and mouthwash, we can go a long way to preventing many oral health issues, including those caused by sugar consumption. Yes, it takes a bit of time to build these habits, and yes we have to be diligent about doing it regularly, but when the routine is in place most of us find it fairly easy to maintain. If brushing and flossing are habits you need to improve, start today–it’s easy and you might be amazed at the results.
Another step in limiting sugar’s effects on your teeth is to limit the role sugar plays in your diet. By reducing or eliminating processed sugars, we can go a long way towards preventing tooth decay and other issues. Processed sugars are found in abundance in sweet foods like candy and sodas, but many processed foods contain more than they should. Likewise, by limiting foods rich in natural sugars, like fruits and starches, we can further reduce the chance that sugar-related tooth decay will occur.
Dietary sugar isn’t something to fear, but rather something to be aware of and control. By following good oral hygiene habits, eating a healthy diet, and making regular trips to the dentist for exams and cleanings we can prevent much of the damage done by sugar.
Speaking of which: if you’re due for a cleaning or exam, get in touch today. Our friendly staff will make an appointment and help get you in to see us!