You probably grew up hearing your parents tell you that too much sugar is bad for your teeth and now you’re repeating the same message to your own children. Like many Americans, however, you may not have stopped to wonder what it is about sugar that damages teeth. The damage typically doesn’t happen while indulging in sugar-filled foods. Rather, consuming a lot of sugar sets off a chain of events that can lead to oral health issues like cavities or tooth extractions, especially without regular professional teeth cleanings.
How Sugar Acts Against Beneficial Oral Bacteria
Every person has hundreds of bacteria living in their mouth. While this might sound disgusting to you, the oral bacteria play a vital role in protecting tooth enamel and the strength of your teeth. Tooth enamel is the protective white coating over each tooth. Unfortunately, the sugar you consume creates a type of acid that can be extremely erosive to tooth enamel.
Cavities develop when bacterial infections produce acid that creates a small hole in the tooth. You then need to visit your dentist to have filling material placed over the hole to preserve the tooth. If you neglect to have the tooth filled, acid can continually eat away at it until you have no choice but to have it extracted.
Why Limiting Sugar Intake is Vital to Healthy Teeth
Sugar isn’t the only type of food ingredient that causes acid to develop in your mouth. Although acid attacks your teeth continually, your body’s natural remineralization process prevents it from causing too much damage to your teeth. The saliva you produce plays a big role in ensuring that remineralization takes place. Fluoride helps to keep teeth strong as well.
When you eat a lot of sugar-filled foods, it offsets the natural remineralization process of saliva and fluoride preventing acid from causing damage to tooth enamel. While it may not be possible to give up sugar entirely, limiting yourself to a few sweet treats a week can help the beneficial bacteria in your mouth do its job.
Other Ways to Promote Remineralization of Teeth
Reducing sugar is important to prevent cavities and other oral health issues, but it’s not the only thing you can do. Dental experts recommend increasing the production of saliva in your mouth as much as possible to help wash away acids that can erode your teeth. Chewing on thick, fibrous vegetables or sugarless gum for several minutes can help you achieve this.
When you’re feeling hungry for a snack, consider reaching for dairy products such as yogurt or cheese rather than candy or chips. Dairy products contain calcium that can help to strengthen tooth enamel, which reduces the risk of developing holes in your teeth.
Making sure you get fluoride in food and water and brushing your teeth with fluoride toothpaste also help to guard against cavities. If you’re concerned that you don’t receive enough fluoride, speak to your dentist at Southbridge Dentistry about a professional fluoride treatment.