We all know that consistently consuming large amounts of sugar can have many negative effects on the body and general health. It is also widely known that sugar can have devastating effects on teeth, gums, and oral health in general. But despite this being wholly accepted, and warnings about sugar consumption being common among healthcare professionals, what isn’t widely known or understood is WHY sugar has such harmful effects. Sugar can be found in so many of the foods and drinks that we consume, so understanding why you should avoid excess sugar as much as possible is very important.
Here we explore several ways that sugar negatively affects your oral health, and what can be done about it.
Your Mouth is your Body’s Gateway
In many ways, the mouth can be viewed as the entry point for most of what goes into the body. All of the food and drink that we consume enters through the mouth, and the mouth acts as a gatekeeper that differentiates between helpful and harmful bacteria. Research has shown that when these harmful bacterias encounter sugar, they produce acid within the mouth. This means that every time sugar enters the mouth, certain bacteria will produce an increasing amount of acid that in turn eats away at the enamel of the teeth.
While our saliva does what it can to combat and reduce the damage, the consumption of large amounts of sugar can result in the production of more acid than the saliva can handle on its own. The repetitive cycle of acid attacking the teeth can result in the loss of minerals in the shiny protective layer surrounding the teeth, known as enamel. As time progresses, this exposure to excess acid can weaken the enamel and cause cavities.
Sugar Changes your Mouth’s PH
The two types of harmful bacteria that can be found in the mouth are known as Streptococcus mutans and Streptococcus sobrinus. Both of these types of bacteria will feed on sugar and cause the formation of plaque. Plaque is a sticky substance that dentists will clean and remove from the teeth during a routine visit. When this plaque is left to sit on the surface of the teeth and is not effectively removed by brushing or saliva, the plaque eventually becomes acidic and eats away at the enamel of the teeth.
Sugar Attracts the Wrong Bacteria
Apart from producing enamel-eating acids, sugar also attracts the type of bacteria that can cause conditions such as gingivitis and gum disease. These conditions can result in the gums receding away from the teeth and destroying the essential protective tissues that keep the teeth in place.
Tooth Decay Caused by Sugary Foods and Drinks
Sugar is an ingredient in so many foods and drinks that we regularly consume. This can make eliminating excess sugar from your diet feel overwhelming. However, the best place to start is by reducing or eliminating sources of processed or refined sugar, which is the most harmful to the teeth. Food items such as candy, ice cream, potato chips, pre-packaged snacks, and soda all contain large amounts of processed sugar. Instead of frequently eating these foods, try eating foods that are high in fiber and protein such as nuts, cheese, and leafy greens which promote strong and healthy teeth.
Also, regularly consuming raw vegetables such as carrots and celery is highly beneficial to your teeth as they naturally remove plaque and bacteria from the surface of the teeth. It is also important to drink plenty of water during and after eating, as this promotes the production of saliva and cleans the mouth of bacteria and food particles.
The Bottom Line
Sugar is so common in the foods and drinks we routinely consume that removing it from your diet completely can feel overwhelming. It is important to start with small simple steps such as reducing your consumption of refined, processed sugar, or high fructose corn syrup. By taking small steps to change your diet and remove excess sugars, it is entirely possible to significantly reduce the risk of developing issues with your teeth and oral health.
Regular and practical dental care can be simple, and at Stonegate Dental we want to be your guide as you cultivate long-lasting, effective routines to support your dental and oral health, as well as your general health and wellness. At our Guelph dentist’s office, we provide family dentistry services that will help to keep your and your loved ones’ smiles beautiful, healthy and strong. We pride ourselves on providing caring, attentive, and respectful dental care, and happily provide a wide range of services from routine checkups to extensive dental repairs with the latest state-of-the-art technology. Contact our Guelph’s dentist office today to schedule your appointment!