It’s no secret that sugar is bad for your teeth, but what exactly does sugar do that causes damage to your dental hygiene?
At Rhoades Family Dentistry, we want you and your family to know how sugar can harm your teeth, especially since dental hygiene is such an important part of maintaining your overall health. Fortunately, there are ways to treat and prevent sugar damage if you are mindful and aware of how this damage occurs.
Is Sugar Bad for Your Teeth?
The short answer is that, yes, sugar is bad for your teeth. But it isn’t just the sugar alone that is the culprit; instead, it’s what occurs after you consume sugar.
Your mouth is full of both good and bad bacteria. When there’s an abundance of harmful bacteria, it can collect in places on your teeth and cause dental plaque. This plaque is what ultimately causes tooth decay, because once it turns into hard tartar, it damages the enamel.
Harmful dental plaque thrives in an environment with sugar. So, when you consume many sugary foods and drinks, you are doing more harm to your teeth than good.
Ways Sugar Affects Your Teeth and Mouth
There are many ways that sugar can affect your dental hygiene. Therefore, it’s important to understand why dental decay occurs and how consuming sugar can ultimately lead to cavities.
Changes pH Levels of Mouth
Eating sugar affects the pH balance in your mouth. These pH levels show how acidic your mouth is. Typically, pH levels remain neutral in a healthy mouth if plaque is washed away by saliva or brushing. However, if the pH level drops, it starts to dissolve and demineralize your tooth’s enamel.
Sugar increases the amount of acidity in your mouth because it interacts with your saliva and creates acid, driving up pH levels. If acid levels in your mouth remain elevated for twenty minutes or more, it begins to affect the protective layer on your teeth and your overall dental hygiene.
Causes Bacterial Growth
When you consume sugar, the bad bacteria in your mouth grows and feeds on it. These harmful bacteria thrive in highly acidic areas, and since we already know that sugar leads to more acidity, we also know that the sugar will cause bacterial growth.
These bacteria grow and can lead to gum disease, gingivitis, receding gums, and tooth decay. It’s crucial to maintain strong and consistent dental care to prevent acid attacks and bacterial growth.
Leads to Cavities
Between a higher acidity level and bacterial growth, sugar can create an ideal environment for cavities. Once the acids and bacteria break down the enamel on your teeth, cavities can form if bacterial infections are not treated.
The bacteria dig into the deep layers of your teeth, creating tiny holes that expose part of the root and cause pain. If left untreated, cavities can lead to a myriad of other problems, including tooth loss. Therefore, treating and preventing cavities when they first form is important to avoid invasive treatment such as a root canal.
Treating Sugar Damage
Avoiding sugar is easier said than done, and sometimes we find out that it’s too late for prevention in the form of a toothache or excessive sensitivity.
Your dentist can detect if you have a cavity by performing an examination and X-ray of your teeth. There are different types of cavities, and some treatments may be more invasive than others, depending on how severe the tooth decay is.
Here are some treatment options for sugar damage.
- Fluoride treatment: Fluoride treatment works well if your cavity has just started to form. At this early stage, you may not feel any pain or even know you have a cavity. Fluoride can help to reverse any damage to your tooth’s enamel.
- Fillings and crowns: For progressed or extensive decay, your dentist may need to drill away the decayed area of your tooth. In the earlier stages, fillings are sufficient for restoring the health of your teeth. Crowns are used for weakened teeth that need the natural crown replaced.
- Root canals: If the decay reaches the inner material of your tooth, your dentist may recommend a root canal to repair the damage instead of removing the tooth entirely. Anything in your tooth that is drilled out is replaced with a filling.
- Tooth extraction: If a cavity has caused damage past the point of no return, your dentist may have to pull the tooth out completely. You can choose to leave the gap in your mouth or get a dental implant to replace the tooth that’s missing.
Preventing Sugar Damage
While it’s probably impossible to avoid sugar 100 percent of the time, there are ways to minimize and prevent sugar damage from occurring on your teeth.
Daily dental care
It’s important to brush and floss your teeth every day. Ideally, you should brush your teeth after every meal and use fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride is a mineral that helps prevent tooth decay and may even reverse some damage early on.
Brushing every day is also essential for the remineralization of your teeth. Harmful acids and bacteria break down the minerals on your teeth every time you consume sugar, so it’s important to promote remineralization by brushing and stimulating saliva flow in your mouth.
Limit sugar intake
Try swapping out sugary foods for healthier options. Many healthy foods like fruits and vegetables are high in vitamins that are good for your teeth, such as calcium and phosphates. In addition, you can try swapping in water for sugary drinks like soda and juice.
When eating sugar, keep in mind that the duration of time you are consuming the sugar is more important than the amount. Stick to eating three meals a day rather than frequent snacking throughout the day. Taking breaks between your meals gives your teeth time to recover and re-mineralize.
See your dentist
Remember that getting regular dental check-ups and cleanings is vital in preventing any damage to your teeth and preserving your dental hygiene. Your dentist can make the best recommendations for preventing sugar damage and treating any damage that has already occurred.
Are you concerned that you may have a cavity from overeating sugar? At Rhoades Family Dentistry, we specialize in all general dental services that meet your family’s needs, including regular cleanings, cavity prevention, and fillings and crowns. Contact us today at 913-782-8900 to schedule an appointment.