We have compiled this article on “How Does Sugar Affect Your Teeth?” The reference links are at the bottom of the article.
It’s common knowledge that sugar is bad for your teeth, but it wasn’t always so.
In fact, when the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle first observed that sweet foods like soft figs caused tooth decay, nobody believed him.
But as science has progressed, one thing is certain — sugar causes tooth decay.
That said, sugar on its own is not the culprit. Rather, the chain of events that takes place afterward is to blame.
This article takes a detailed look at how sugar affects your teeth and how you can prevent tooth decay.
Your Mouth Is A Battleground
Many different types of bacteria live in your mouth. Some are beneficial to your dental health, but others are harmful.
For example, studies have shown that a select group of harmful bacteria produce acid in your mouth whenever they encounter and digest sugar.
These acids remove minerals from the tooth enamel, which is the shiny, protective, outer layer of your tooth. This process is called demineralization.
The good news is that your saliva helps to constantly reverse this damage in a natural process called remineralization.
The minerals in your saliva, such as calcium and phosphate, in addition to fluoride from toothpaste and water, help the enamel repair itself by replacing minerals lost during an “acid attack.” This helps strengthen your teeth.
However, the repeated cycle of acid attacks causes mineral loss in the enamel. Over time, this weakens and destroys the enamel, forming a cavity.
Simply put, a cavity is a hole in the tooth caused by tooth decay. It’s the result of harmful bacteria digesting the sugar in foods and producing acids.
If left untreated, the cavity can spread into the deeper layers of the tooth, causing pain and possible tooth loss.
The signs of tooth decay include a toothache, pain when chewing and sensitivity to sweet, hot or cold foods and drinks.
How Do Cavities Develop?
Did you know your mouth is full of bacteria? It’s true. Some are good for the inside of your mouth. Others. Not so much. The harmful bacteria feed on the sugar and carbohydrates, also known as starches, that you eat, and together, they create acids that can turn into bacterial infections. Bacterial infections can do two things. First, they can destroy the enamel (shiny outer layer of your tooth). Next, if left untreated, those bacterial infections will turn into cavities. They go into the deeper layers of your tooth, creating a hole, causing pain and possible tooth loss.
How Does Your Mouth Fight Cavities?
Your teeth are always susceptible to cavity making acids. However, this damage can be reversed by minerals. Minerals come from the enamel of your teeth and your saliva through a process called remineralisation. It generates minerals like calcium and phosphates, both of which are good for strengthening teeth. Fluoride is another mineral that comes into play and also helps repair your weakened enamel. It’s a great process, but it can only do so much. To keep your teeth healthy, you have to limit your sugar intake. That includes starches.
What Are Ways To Remineralise Tooth Enamel?
Cutting down on sugar is a good start. Here are some other ways to promote remineralisation and improve the enamel of your teeth. Stimulate your saliva flow by chewing sugarless gum and eat high-fibre veggies and fruits. It helps to bathe your teeth in minerals. Calcium and phosphates strengthen teeth, so keep dairy products in your diet. Green and black teas contain substances that help suppress harmful oral bacteria.
According to the Indian Dental Association, the product helps prevent tooth decay, and works in two ways: First, fluoride makes your tooth enamel stronger and less likely to suffer acid damage. Second, it can reverse the early stages of acid damage by remineralising areas that have started to decay. The Indian Dental Association further outlines that for adults, drinking water with fluoride continues to support tooth enamel. According to the state health department, fluoride prevents tooth decay in three ways: It prevents plaque bacteria from producing acid; it is absorbed into the tooth enamel, preventing the acids from entering; and it remineralises teeth after attacks by acid-producing bacteria. Today, fluoride is widely acknowledged as a way to prevent cavities and we suggest buying fluoridated toothpaste to get your daily dose of cavity-preventing fluoride. The Indian Dental Association also recognises and supports the professional topical applications of fluoride gels, foams and varnishes in the prevention of dental caries for high-risk individuals.
Ultimately, be mindful of your sugar intake, and teach your kids to be as well. When you eat sugar, brush afterward with fluoride toothpaste, and make sure you also eat the healthy foods that strengthen your teeth. Keep up with your regular dental visits for good measure. Then, you can enjoy your sweet life, only with fewer cavities.
Who Is At Risk Of Tooth Decay?
Everyone is at risk of tooth decay, but children and adolescents are most at risk. Dental caries are the most common cause of tooth loss in young people. Plaque begins to build up on teeth only 20 minutes after we begin eating and if it is not removed effectively, tooth decay starts. People who regularly consume sugar have a higher risk of developing dental caries, particularly if the food they eat is sticky or consumed in between mealtimes. Sugars-containing snacks and sugars-sweetened beverages have particularly bad effects on teeth. People who smoke and consume alcohol are also more at risk. The prevalence of dental caries is also associated with social factors – where adults from lower income households are more likely to suffer from dental caries than those from higher income households (37% compared with 26%)
We currently consume far too much sugar in our diets. The report published by the WHO and by the SACN highlight the need for a reduction in sugars intake to 5% of our energy intake. This is the equivalent of 7 teaspoons/cubes or 30g of sugar per day for an adult. The recommendation for children is 24g for children aged 5-11 and 19g for children aged 4-6. This 5% limit is far below the current intake which is of 11.9% in children aged 1.5 to 3; 14.7% in children aged 4 to 10; and 15.6% in children 11 to 18. It is also thought that adherence to the 5% recommended sugar intake would halt the increase in obesity
Other Ways To Reduce Dental Caries Include:
- Brushing teeth thoroughly twice a day with fluoride-containing toothpaste as well as
- flossing daily.
- Reducing the amount of sugars-containing sticky food, and rinsing the mouth with water if they are consumed.
- Reduce snacking; which helps reduce the production of acid in the mouth.
- Reduce the consumption of sugars-sweetened beverages.
- Only eat sugary foods at mealtimes.
Why Sugar Is Bad For Your Teeth And Health
Although sugar may seem harmless, it can have far-reaching health implications for people who eat it. These health issues can be especially problematic for people who eat diets that are high in sugar. Some results of high-sugar diets can manifest quickly as blood glucose levels soar and then dive. Other issues may fester over time, resulting in serious illnesses such as coronary artery disease and diabetes. By focusing their diet on whole foods that are naturally low in sugar, people can enjoy many health benefits.
Unstable Blood Glucose
- Simple sugars cause blood glucose levels to spike sharply and then fall.
- Excessive swings in blood glucose levels can make people feel tired and unwell. People may also feel emotional mood swings and blood glucose highs and lows.
- As blood sugar goes up and then plummets, many people crave more sugar.
- Eating more sugar is a temporary solution because the blood glucose levels will never stabilize.
Obesity, Heart Disease, Cancer, And Diabetes
- Eating sugar increases a person’s risk of developing issues with obesity.
- Excessive sugar consumption elevates the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
- Heart disease is another health issue connected with diets high in sugar.
- Some types of cancer have a connection with high-glycemic diets.
- The higher insulin levels that accompany diets high in sugar may have a connection with the speed of cancer cell growth.
- Research has suggested that sugar interferes with healthy immune function.
- Sugar may suppress the active immune response in the body.
- Bacteria and yeast that naturally occur in the body react to sugars. These reactions may cause an imbalance.
- Reducing sugar intake may enable the body to balance yeast levels to a healthier level.
- A diet high in sugar often translates into eating foods that do not provide enough chromium.
- The mineral chromium helps the body regulate blood glucose levels.
- The refining of processed foods depletes these foods of chromium.
- Chromium is naturally present in whole grains, nuts, vegetable oils, and mushrooms.
- Excessive sugar consumption may contribute to sagging and wrinkling skin.
- After sugar enters the bloodstream, it attaches to proteins. This process is called glycation.
- Glycation is connected to loss of elasticity, which occurs as body tissues age.
- Elevated blood glucose levels have a direct correlation with the glycation rate.
- Sugar has a direct connection to tooth decay.
- After eating foods that contain sugar, these molecules combine with saliva and bacteria present in the mouth. This combination leads to plaque on teeth.
- Left on teeth, plaque can dissolve enamel, which leads to cavities.
- To control bacteria and plaque on teeth, brush as soon as possible after eating.
Children’s Behavior And Cognition
- After eating foods high in sugar, blood glucose levels often rise sharply. This rise could lead to hyperactivity for some people.
- Kids with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder may have a sensitivity to sugar, making them more likely to experience hyperactivity after eating sugar.
- Diets high in carbohydrates could be linked to mild cognitive impairments due to issues with blood glucose levels and the way the body metabolizes insulin.
- Proper nutrition has a connection to the way the brain functions, which can impact how kids learn.
Stress And Anxiety
- External stress causes the body’s stress hormone levels to rise. These hormones enable the body to respond to emergencies.
- Stress hormones also surge in response to low blood sugar levels. This could occur after the spike and dip of blood glucose levels that occurs after eating sugar.
- The body reacts to a surge in stress hormones by feeling irritable and anxious. Some people may even notice their hands shaking.
- Reducing sugar intake can alleviate anxiety for some people.
Replacing Important Nutrients
- Eating excess sugar gives the body many calories, but the calories do not contain nutrients.
- People who consume diets high in sugar often don’t get enough of important nutrients such as vitamins A and C.
- Children and adolescents may be at the highest risk for nutritional deficiencies due to over-consumption of sugar.
- The recommended intake of sugar should be 10 percent or less than the total intake of food.
Thank you for reading this article, and check back frequently for other dental health articles. Should you have any questions, please contact Apple Tree Dental today!
Article compiled by Apple Tree Dental
Article reference links