Your mother probably told you that eating too much sugar would give you cavities. However, it’s not the actual sugar that causes cavities, it’s what happens after you eat sugar.
Your mouth is naturally filled with scores of bacteria both good and bad, and when you eat sugar, that sugar feeds the harmful bacteria, which in turn, create acids that break down tooth enamel.
That’s when cavities, or holes in the enamel layer, are created by a bacterial infection caused by those acids that leech minerals through the enamel in a process called demineralization. Left untreated, those holes will progress past the enamel deeper into the tooth, causing pain and the possible loss of the tooth.
Sugar also lowers the natural pH in your mouth, which allows the dental plaque (a sticky, colorless film) to form on the surface of your teeth. The normal pH level in a person’s mouth measures around 7, but with too much sugar, that number can drop to 5.5 or less, thus allowing the acids to do their dirty work.
The good news is that your body is good at reversing this process by remineralizing and strengthening the enamel, mostly through your saliva. Saliva is filled with minerals like phosphates and calcium that help to restore the teeth. Fluoride also helps.
Eating lots of sugar or sugary snacks, however, can override this natural healing system. An overabundance of sugar and starches will inhibit the body’s ability to keep up with the remineralizing process. Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption also contribute to reduced saliva production.
How to Remineralize your Teeth
To keep your teeth healthy, dentists, like EverSmile Dentistry, recommend reducing the amount of sugar and starch eaten throughout the day. In addition, an increase in saliva flow will flood the mouth with minerals, helping to remineralize your teeth. Increase saliva by chewing gum or eating more fruits and vegetables and foods containing phosphorates and calcium, like yogurt, cheese and dairy products. Drinking green or black tea can also help, as it aids in suppression of oral bacteria.
Americans eat a whopping 150 to 175 pounds of sugar each year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Sugar is also concentrated in the drinks we consume; one 16-oz bottle of Coca Cola alone contains 16.5 teaspoons of sugar. Look for hidden sugar in processed foods, and try to eat a more natural diet of fruits and vegetables whenever possible.
The American Dental Association recommends using fluoride to strengthen enamel. It is found in our drinking water, ADA-approved toothpastes, and dental rinses. Your dentist may also recommend and perform a professional periodic fluoride treatment.
Of course, regular dental care is paramount to protecting your teeth from the harms of sugar. Brushing and flossing twice daily, limiting the intact of sugar, starches and sticky foods that provide long-lasting sources of sugar, and professional dental cleanings at least twice a year are the key to keeping your teeth healthy.
Get Regular Cleanings at EverSmile Dentistry
EverSmile Dentistry is dedicated to the dental health of your entire family and would love to schedule your next dental cleaning and checkup. Please contact us today. We’re located in Sterling, Virginia to serve families throughout Northern Virginia.