Adults and children consume far too much sugar on a daily basis and it’s often done out of habit. You may not even think about the sugary nature of your foods and beverages, yet that won’t stop the sweetener from doing severe damage to your teeth.
In addition to raising the risks of diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, the excessive intake of sweeteners can also cause serious oral health damage. Before you eat that next piece of candy or pour another glass of soda, you may want to take a deeper look at how sugary foods affect your teeth and gum tissue.
It’s virtually impossible to find foods without some sugar content. Even fresh fruits contain a natural portion of sugary substances. However, processed and packaged foods often add large quantities of refined sweeteners, which is especially bad for your teeth.
The problem with these foods is that the teeth will be exposed to that high concentration of sugary substances for a long period of time. This makes it four times more likely that you will need cosmetic dentistry services routinely to repair the damage.
When your family dentist talks to you about sugary drinks, you probably envision your favorite soda. While soda is one of the biggest culprits, it’s not the only type of drink that contains high amounts of sweeteners. Energy drinks, sports drinks, and even fruit juices all contain high levels of added sugar.
A Finnish study found that drinking just one or two sugary drinks daily could raise the risks of developing a cavity by 31% in adults. There was also an interesting Australian study that found the number of sugary drinks consumed by children between the ages of five to 16 resulted in a similar number of cavities.
If you think you’ll be safer by sipping your sugary drinks through a straw, think again. Studies have found that this method of drinking is actually worse for your teeth. As you sip through a straw, you tend to hold the beverage in your mouth for a longer period of time. This gives the sweetener more time to attack the teeth and gum tissue. As a result, oral decay will be more severe and cosmetic dentistry will be required to fix the problems.
Even if you select food with a lower sweetener content, it’s texture may help the sugar cause more harm. Specifically, sticky foods (hard candy, suckers, gum, etc.) will become attached to the teeth, letting the sweetener infect the teeth for a prolonged period of time. By the time you brush your teeth, these sugars will have promoted the growth of harmful bacteria in your mouth.
As any dentist in Scottsdale will tell you, the mouth is a breeding ground for bacteria, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. There are actually helpful bacteria in the mouth as well as harmful types of bacteria. These varying types of bacteria work together to form a small eco-system that helps keep your mouth healthy. The problem with sugary substances is that they serve as food for the harmful bacteria, which upsets the balance it has with the good bacteria.
As the bacteria feed on sweeteners, it creates acid that helps erode the enamel on your teeth. The enamel is the outer shell of the tooth, which gives the tooth its shine and helps protect against contaminants. As the acid eats away at the enamel, the bacteria pass through that opening to attack the inner layer of the tooth. This is how a cavity begins to form and, as it reaches the nerve of the tooth, you’ll begin to feel the pain associated with tooth decay.
This process of attacking your tooth enamel can have devastating results and you may be forced to seek out the services of a dentist in extreme circumstances. However, your body has natural defenses that will counteract the effects of sugar up to a certain point.
The enamel erodes as a result of a process called demineralization, but the saliva your mouth produces contains minerals to help restore the enamel. Additionally, the fluoride contained in the mouthwashes and toothpaste recommended by your dentist will also help restore those minerals. This helps strengthen your tooth enamel, so your teeth will remain protected. That doesn’t mean you can overwhelm this process with the relentless consumption of sweetened foods and drinks.
While visiting your family dentist on a regular basis will help you keep your teeth and gum tissue in good condition, there are things you can do at home that will help you keep your tooth enamel healthy and strong.
In addition to cutting down on your intake of sugary foods, you can also expose your teeth to more minerals by promoting better saliva production. Try chewing sugarless gum, eating more high-fiber fruits and vegetables, and consuming more dairy products.
Instead of drinking sugary beverages, try adding green tea or black tea. In addition to containing beneficial antioxidants, these types of tea contain essential minerals to help you keep your mouth healthy. Drinking fluoridated water will help promote saliva production, while also acting to protect your tooth enamel more directly.
Some research has indicated that drinking more fluoride-rich water will actually help reverse early decay, so it’s not only helpful as a preventative measure.
As always, brushing your teeth at least twice per day is also necessary. Your dentist can instruct you on the proper way to brush to ensure you’re doing all you can to keep your teeth in good condition. Flossing and rinsing with a fluoride-rich mouthwash will also help you protect your teeth and gum tissue.