Why Is Sugar Bad For Your Teeth?
As a child, you were likely warned not to eat sweets because they were bad for your teeth, but did you ever stop to think why? Though sugar is not the only culprit involved in the formation of cavities, it is perhaps the main one.
From Cake to a Cavity
Your mouth is full of bacteria – but before you get too grossed out, most of these bacteria are beneficial and play an important role in the maintenance of oral health, while others are just plain bad.
Bacteria living on tooth surfaces are called dental plaque and their function is to protect the teeth. However, if bacteria in the biofilm are not removed by brushing or flossing, these bacteria can become harmful and feast on sugars in the food you consume and create acids. When these acids build up within the oral cavity and cause the pH balance of the mouth to fall below a certain level, they will attack and destroy your tooth enamel, causing cavities. A diet that is high in sugary foods means that there is a continual supply of substrate for these bacteria to use to produce acids and therefore the more likely it is for cavities to form.
The Battle for Supremacy
While your teeth are constantly being bombarded by these harmful bacteria and their destructive acids, minerals are being lost from your tooth in the process of demineralization. Fortunately, your oral cavity has its defenses that are continually trying to reverse this damage. Saliva (yes, you read that right) plays a key role in trying to reverse and replace the minerals that are lost from the tooth in the process of remineralization. Minerals from your saliva such as phosphates and calcium, along with fluoride from toothpaste and water, can help to repair teeth and restore their strength. Fluoride also helps to make teeth more resistant to acid attacks.
However, it is important to note that there is only so much that your body can do, and if you continue to have a diet rich in sugars then you will be causing damage at a rate faster than your body can repair.
Reducing your Cavity Risk
Although it is largely preventable, dental caries (cavities) remains one of the most common chronic diseases of childhood, however, reducing your caries risk is as simples as these first few steps:
Reduce your sugar intake:
The most obvious way that you can prevent cavities is by eating less sugar. This means cutting down on sweet foods and drinks such as soda and juice (which often have lots of added sugars). Instead, drink water.
Increase Saliva Production:
It may sound a little gross, but increased saliva means that remineralization will progress at a faster rate and repair damage in a shorter time. This can be accomplished by eating fruits and vegetables high in fibre and chewing sugar-free gum (must be sugar-free otherwise you are defeating the purpose).
Practice proper oral hygiene:
One of the most effective ways to stave off cavities is by brushing at least twice daily with fluoride toothpaste, flossing, and as a bonus, using a mouthwash with fluoride.
Let’s say no to sugar and make better choices for the sake of our oral health.
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