May 30, 2022
We are all slowly becoming aware of the fact that consuming large amounts of sugar can wreak havoc on our overall health.
We have also heard how sugar can be devastating to teeth and oral health.
So this leads us to many times wonder how sugar can be so harmful?
Sugar being part of so many foods and drinks that are regularly consumed, it’s important to understand why it should be avoided the best one can.
Here are several ways to explain how sugar is bad for oral health, and what you can do about it.
Mouth, A Battleground
The mouth is the major entry point for the majority of things that we put into the body.
All the food and drinks consumed by us enter through the mouth, so the mouth actually acts as a battleground between beneficial and harmful bacteria.
Harmful acid is produced in the mouth by these harmful bacteria whenever they encounter or digest sugar.
So every time sugar is consumed, these bacteria produce more and more acid that eats away at the teeth.
The saliva in the mouth does fight this damage. However, consuming large amounts of sugar leads to more acid in the mouth than can be handled by saliva alone.
Mineral loss is caused in the shiny, protective layer around teeth called the enamel with the repeated acid attacks on the teeth, weakening and destroying the enamel, over time.
Streptococcus mutans and Streptococcus sobrinus are the two destructive types of bacteria found in the mouth and both these bacteria feed on sugar and form plaque, the sticky substance that forms on the teeth.
If this plaque is not cleaned by the dentist and is allowed to sit on the teeth or is not washed away by brushing or saliva, the environment of the mouth becomes acidic, eating away at the enamel on the teeth.
Sugar Attracts Bad Bacteria
Sugar not only creates enamel-eating acids but also attracts tiny bacteria that can cause gingivitis and gum disease.
The gums can recede away from the teeth because of this disease and the protective tissues that hold the teeth into place can also be destroyed.
Also Read: Why Healthy Teeth Are So Important?
Effects of Solid Sugars on Teeth
More foods than we actually realize contain sugar. Besides the natural sources of sugar, like fruits, vegetables, and honey, sugar can also be consumed by eating ordinary snacks like chips and cookies.
Foods with high amounts of white processed sugar are especially damaging as these foods can leave a sticky residue on the teeth that is too strong for the saliva to wash away.
Moderation should be practiced in all kinds of sugar consumption as frequent snacking on foods high in sugar increases the amount of time the teeth are exposed to the dissolving effects of these acids, eventually causing tooth decay.
Effects Of Sugary Drinks On Teeth
Soft drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks and juices are the most common sources of liquid sugar and high levels of acids that can cause tooth decay.
Studies show that drinking 1–2 sugar-sweetened beverages in a day can contribute to a 31% higher risk of cavities.
It is partly because teeth are exposed to harmful effects of sugar for a longer time, due to this habit, giving the harmful bacteria more opportunity to damage them.
Sugar can Cause Gum Disease
High sugar consumption can cause gum disease in the mouth and once the gum disease starts, it may advance to periodontitis which involves both gum tissues and the bones beneath the gums.
The bacteria related to periodontitis can travel throughout the human body, affecting joints, connective tissue, and organs such as the kidneys, liver, and lungs and can also lead to coronary artery disease as the bacteria that amass from periodontitis can be a reason for blood clots that clog arteries.
How Can We Avoid the Harmful Effects of Sugar?
It may appear hard to remove sugar from our diet as it is so prevalent in the food we consume.
But one can start with simple steps like removing refined, processed sugar, or high fructose corn syrup from the diet.
One can significantly reduce the risk of developing problems with the teeth by changing or removing these sweeteners and following the below-written guidelines:
- Eat a balanced diet rich in whole grains, fresh fruits, vegetables and dairy products.
- Have sugary foods & sweetened or acidic beverages with meals, instead of between them, but that too rarely.
- Use a straw when drinking sugary & acidic beverages to give your teeth less exposure to the sugar and acid in the drinks.
- Add raw fruit or vegetables to the meals to increase the flow of saliva in your mouth.
- Cut Down on Sugar by eating sugary and sticky foods only occasionally.
- Good Oral Hygiene like brushing at least twice per day and flossing daily is an important step in preventing cavities and tooth decay. Using toothpaste that contains fluoride helps protect the teeth.
The Bottom Line
The bacteria inside the mouth work to break down anything sugary we eat or drink producing acid in the process which destroys the tooth enamel that results in tooth decay over time.
This can give birth to many more problems like Gum disease and other health complications.
Explaining the measures to avoid this attack, Dr. Sheena Gaur at Kirkland Premier Dentistry explains that one must keep the intake of high-sugar foods and beverages to a minimum, especially between meals and right before bedtime.
She further adds that taking good care of teeth and practicing a healthy lifestyle are the best ways to win the battle against tooth decay.
A regular visit to the dentist can help in nipping more serious complications in the bud. To protect your oral health and prevent health complications related to your teeth book an appointment now.