Did you know that when ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle, told everyone that sugar caused tooth decay, no one took him seriously? We now know that Aristotle was right.
Sugar can be detrimental to your teeth if they are not cared for properly. While sugar isn’t the direct cause of tooth decay, the domino effect that sugar causes can be dangerous if not taken seriously.
Sugar’s Oral Cause and Effect
So, how exactly does sugar affect your teeth?
Your mouth is home to two harmful bacteria, Streptococcus mutans and Streptococcus sorbrinus. These bacteria feed on the sugar you consume. Sugar is basically a breeding ground for these bacteria. When these bacteria come in contact with sugar, it sets off a chain of events that could lead to tooth decay and cavities (1).
Contact with sugar causes these harmful bacteria to create an acid in your mouth. This acid created by the bacteria slowly chips away at the tooth enamel’s minerals. This tooth enamel is the protective coating on your teeth. While the minerals in your saliva and toothpaste work as a remineralizer for your teeth, constant exposure to this acid created by sugar can lead to a complete loss of tooth enamel minerals. Once destroyed, the weakened tooth enamel could become a cavity (2).
Contact with sugar causes Streptococcus mutans and Streptococcus sorbrinus to form dental plaque. Dental plaque is the sticky film that forms on the outside of teeth. If the dental plaque is not washed away by saliva or proper dental hygiene, this plaque will also cause high acidic levels in the mouth. The high levels of acidity will begin to begin to weaken the teeth’s enamel, resulting in a cavity.
A cavity is essentially a hole in the tooth. This hole in the tooth is caused by tooth decay. If action isn’t taken against the cavity, this cavity can spread deeper into the tooth, leading to immense pain and potentially a loss of teeth.
Essentially, sugar attracts harmful bacterium. This harmful bacterium produces plaque and higher levels of acidity in the mouth. If not properly cared for, the high acidic levels will lead to tooth decay, which will lead to cavity.
Preventing Tooth Decay
There are many ways you can prevent the dangerous affects that sugar has on your teeth. Number one, reduce sugar intake. While it may not be realistic to completely cut out sugar, it’s never a bad idea to cut down on sugary food and drink. Another way to prevent tooth decay caused by sugar is proper dental hygiene. This means brushing your teeth with toothpaste and flossing daily. It’s especially smart to brush after consuming something sugary. This will help prevent the negative chain of events caused by sugar.
Regular dental checkups with your dentist are also very effective in preventing the negative effects of sugar. Your dentist will be able to see any warning signs of tooth decay and help guide you on preventing cavities.