Chocolate, gummy bears, soda, crème brûlée, a flavored latte . . . However you prefer to satisfy your sweet tooth, you need to be aware of how sugar affects your teeth. As it turns out, your dentist and your parents were telling the truth all those years: Sugar has an undeniably negative impact on your teeth. By consuming sugar in moderation and practicing good oral hygiene, you can protect your teeth from untimely decay.
How Sugar Affects Your Teeth
Did you know your mouth is home to colonies of bacteria? Most of these microorganisms are harmless, but others can destroy your teeth. This bacterium thrives on the food you eat and leaves behind sticky residue known as plaque. In fact, certain strains of bacteria actually feed off of sugar and produce demineralizing acid as a result (source). A demineralizing acid is just what it sounds like: a type of acid that destroys the minerals in your tooth’s enamel.
Your mouth takes measures to protect itself against acid attacks, but sometimes sugar wins. Your saliva contains calcium and phosphate, which help the enamel repair itself by replacing the minerals that acid destroys. If these minerals are unable to keep up with the repairs (which is very likely if you consume a lot of sugar), you’ll be left with permanent damage. Once the damage to the enamel reaches a certain point, it can’t be repaired without the help of a dentist. If you have tooth decay, you might notice that your teeth are extra sensitive to cold and warm temperatures and even sugar.
Protect Your Teeth
Can’t say goodbye to your favorite sugar-laden treats? We understand it’s difficult, and it is certainly okay to indulge every once in a while. If you plan on consuming extra sugar, use these tips to protect your teeth:
- Use a straw: The next time you order a soda or sweet tea to pair with your food at a restaurant, ask for a straw. This will limit how much you expose your teeth to the sugar in the beverage. You’ll also help your teeth avoid the harsh carbonation, which can damage your enamel, and dark compounds that can stain your teeth (if you’re drinking something dark in color).
- Brush your teeth soon after: If you’ve just eaten a sugary scone paired with a vanilla latte, try to brush your teeth right away. The longer you let sugar sit on your teeth, the more damage it can do.
- Rinse with water: If you’re not in a place where you can brush your teeth right away, swish some water around in your mouth and spit it out, just like you would with mouthwash. This will help remove sugar residue.
- Consume water throughout the day: While your saliva already contains minerals that repair your enamel, water contains fluoride, which is another helpful mineral. Most toothpaste also contains fluoride.
- Ask your dentist about sealants: A sealant is a clear coating that acts as a barrier on the chewing surface of the tooth, shielding your teeth from the demineralizing acids. Sealants are often recommended for children.
Finally, check out our blog post How to Prevent Stained Teeth.
Although it tastes great, sugar isn’t kind to your teeth or your overall health. Try to think of sugar as a special treat and avoid consuming it in large amounts. And when you do decide to indulge, don’t let the sugar linger on your teeth.
Do you have more questions about how sugar affects your teeth? Just ask your dentist or oral hygienist. At Wilkinson Dental, we provide an array of general and cosmetic dental services, including regular cleanings, crowns, dentures, teeth whitening services, and more. We’d love to help you keep your teeth in the best shape possible. If you live near southwest Missouri, call us today at 417-708-0556 to schedule an appointment.