Sugar and Your Teeth

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Sugar and Your Teeth

Do you know how sugar and your teeth interact? You’ve heard it all your life: eating sweets will rot your teeth. But while a diet high in sugar certainly promotes the formation of cavities (as well as other medical problems, such as obesity), sugar itself isn’t the real culprit behind tooth decay.  Dental cavities — also known as caries, the Latin word for “decay” — are formed when bacteria living in the mouth digest carbohydrate debris left on the teeth after you eat. Such debris might include the refined sugars found in cookies, candy and other treats, but can also come from healthy foods like whole grains, vegetables and fruits. When digesting these carbohydrates, bacteria in your mouth produce an acid that combines with saliva to form that nasty stuff your dentist warned you about–plaque.

Sugar and Your Teeth

So, just what is the relationship between sugar and your teeth?  How does sugar impact the health of your smile?  When it comes to your teeth, it isn’t as much the amount of sugar you are consuming but how often you consume it. And, what you do after you consume it. Sugar that is consumed in the form of juices or sodas slips between your teeth into areas that can only be cleaned with a good flossing. Sometimes, even then, sugars can be hard to remove.  While regular oral hygiene helps, those hard-to-reach sugars can augment the growth of hungry bacteria causing tooth decay and cavities.  Foods high in sugar deposit large amounts of sugar residue on your teeth that don’t dissolve easily with your natural saliva production.  Sugars left on your teeth lead to bacteria growth and harm tooth enamel.

Sugar Consumption and Cavity Prevention

It is impossible to avoid all sugar because a form of sugar is in most everything we eat.  Your body uses sugars to produce the energy to power you through your day. But there are definitely things you can start to reduce the amount of sugar in your diet:

  • Change your diet. Work to get the daily nutrition you need from all of the five major food groups. Sugar cravings are often a sign of protein deficiencies in your diet. Go for fresh, natural sugars found in fruits and vegetables instead of processed/refined sugars.
  • Drink your water. A recent study showed that nearly half of Americans are not getting enough water each day.  You should strive to drink at least half your weight in ounces of water every day. More if you exercise or on hot days.
  • Limit snacking. If you are prone to snack all day, and you aren’t brushing after every time you eat, your teeth are constantly under attack by bacteria from the sugars in your food.  To help, reach for healthy snacks like raw vegetables and fruits. Cheese is especially helpful as it has been shown to reduce the acid attacks on your teeth. Drink water after you eat to help wash away sugars from your teeth.
  • Track your sugars. Try incorporating an app ( like MyFitnessPal ) or use a journal to track your sugar consumption. Swap out high-sugar options with lower-sugar options.
  • Artificial sweeteners can still cause problems. If something is described as “low-sugar” or “sugar-free” beware! Artificial sweeteners create acidic environments in your mouth and have been connected with various health risks.
  • Develop good oral hygiene habits. Do your part to protect your teeth. Brush after meals and floss in the morning and at night.  Try using a mouthwash after your cleaning routine to remove other particles you couldn’t reach.
  • Schedule an examination.  Make sure you visit your dentist at least every 6 months for an exam and cleaning to safeguard your teeth and gums. Your dentist will be able to assess how you are doing with your at-home care.

Call for a Nutrition and Teeth Consultation

If you would like to learn more about sugar and your teeth–or habits for a healthier smile (and body)–call our office today!  Mountain Aire Dentistry, located in Broomfield, CO is a general and family dentistry practice. We are passionate about helping you and your children achieve and maintain optimal oral health and a beautiful smile! We focus on prevention, tooth preservation, and awareness and make every effort to treat our patients the way we treat members of our own family. We offer comprehensive care for your dental needs in a relaxed and efficient atmosphere.  We look forward to meeting you and your family! Call us today at (303) 731-7755 to make an appointment.