October is a time of high sugar consumption as Americans hand out candy to trick-or-treaters, and as we head into the holidays candy and sugar consumption will increase. We’ve all heard how bad sugar is for our teeth, but do you know why? How sugar affects your teeth is important to know so you can improve your and your family’s oral health.
Sugar and Your Teeth
When you consume sugar, it reacts with the bacteria in your mouth. These bacteria feed on the sugar you eat or drink and form dental plaque. Plaque is a sticky film that forms on the surface of your teeth. As plaque sits on your teeth it will start to form an acid. This acid can start to eat through your enamel and over time can cause cavities.
Studies show that frequent snacking on sugary foods does cause tooth decay. Even starchy foods such as potato or tortilla chips can contribute to cavities. Those foods can typically get stuck in between and into the grooves in your teeth. As the sugar in these foods breaks down into acid, it can damage teeth.
Drinking sugary beverages can be more damaging to your teeth than sugary foods. Beverages such as soda, sports drinks, energy drinks, and juice contain high amounts of sugar but also are acidic on their own. The sugar and extra acidity can do even more damage to your teeth. If you do drink sugary beverages, don’t sip them slowly. This gives the sugar and acid more exposure to your teeth.
Sticky foods such as hard candies, breath mints, or sugary gum can also cause tooth decay. These treats stay in your mouth longer, giving them more of an opportunity to do damage.
How to Fight Sugar Tooth Decay
Rethink what you eat and drink. Stick to healthy, low-sugar foods and beverages. If you do drink a sugary, acidic drink, be sure to drink it with a meal and through a straw so your saliva can work on reducing the damage. Drink more water and fewer sugary drinks.
Practicing good oral hygiene is also a must. Brush after every meal—at least twice a day—with toothpaste that contains fluoride. Floss your teeth daily to remove plaque from in between your teeth. You can also chew sugar-free gum to increase saliva production. Finally, keep your annual appointments with the dentist for a cleaning.
Limiting sugary foods and beverages, practicing good daily oral hygiene, and having bi-annual cleanings at the dentist will help you fight tooth decay caused by sugar.