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Dentist’s Tip of the Month: Sugar and its effects on your teeth

A spoonful of sugar may help the medicine go down but it’ll require a whole different type of medicine to repair what it’ll do to your teeth. At our Lasalle area dentistry, we get a lot of questions about sugar and about how to reduce the risk of cavities and tooth decay. The following is a quick look at the basics of sugar and its impacts on the tooth as well as some myth debunking to help ensure you have the information you need to keep your smile healthy and radiant:

Sugar & Its Dental Impact

You probably remember a well-intentioned grandparent chastising you, saying that sugar rots your teeth. As with most things, this is not technically true, but the warning is apt, as sugar is really bad for gum and tooth health.

The problem with sugar is that it causes the following two negative effects in the mouth:

  1. Sugar + Saliva = Acid.  Sugar as a compound in and of itself does not break down tooth enamel, the protective covering surrounding teeth preventing premature tooth decay. However, when the sugar in sodas, desserts, and other foods come into contact with saliva, that saliva is prompted to release acid that helps break down the food. Unfortunately, this same acid that enhances digestion also breaks down tooth enamel.
  2. Sugar + Bacteria = Super Bacteria. The bacteria in our mouth love sugar as much as we do. While some bacteria is normal and even a bit healthy, the type of bacteria that is attracted to and thrives off of sugar is the same type that generally causes plaque. This plaque-creating bacteria consumes sugar which hastens its growth and increases its ability to stick onto tooth enamel. The greater and more aggressive bacteria eats through tooth enamel and will eventually create a hole in the tooth, also known as a cavity.

Minimizing the Effects of Sugar

  • Help teeth remineralize.   Your teeth continually undergo a process known as remineralization in which teeth regain the minerals they need to stay healthy and strong and combat bad bacteria. Individuals can optimize this process by ensuring their mouth has a good pH, regular Fluoride rinses and vitamin D.
  • Swish with water after sugary foods.  Don’t give sugar enough time to react with saliva to create that problem acid. Instead, keep a bottle of water on you and wash down food shortly after consuming.
  • Limit your intake of sugar and fermentable carbohydrates. Finally, reducing your daily intake of sugar and fermentable carbohydrates (which have the same effects) will go a long way in improving oral health as well as the body’s overall health.