A Family Dentist Warns Against Sugar and Tooth Decay

Any family dentist worth visiting knows that sugar is an enemy of the teeth. First off, it is important to understand how sugar leads to tooth decay. Shortly after sugar is consumed bacteria stick to the residual sugar on the teeth and begin to metabolize fructose in the process known as glycolysis.

Any family dentist worth visiting knows that sugar is an enemy of the teeth. First off, it is important to understand how sugar leads to tooth decay.

The process

Glycosis and lactic acid

Shortly after sugar is consumed bacteria stick to the residual sugar on the teeth and begin to metabolize fructose in the process known as glycolysis.

The end product of this process is lactic acid. Lactic acid lowers the pH inside the mouth to the point where the key component in tooth enamel is dissolved.

Effecting enamel

The erosion of tooth enamel, which is the protective, hard layer on the outside of teeth, exposes their soft core. Once the enamel is breeched, even slightly, the minerals, largely basic calcium molecules, can be assaulted by the acidic plaque colonies. The longer a plaque colony is left to mature, the further into the tooth it will burrow, dissolving more calcium molecules and multiplying as it goes. This burrowing process is what eventually causes cavities.

Tips prevent tooth decay due to sugar

Avoid excessive sugar intake

Eating sugar here and there is not going to lead to tooth decay. The pH in the mouth will lower, but saliva is capable of recovering the pH levels to neutral potentially in times as short as a half hour. Therefore, it is the repetitive consumption of sugar throughout the day which is most dangerous. This does not give saliva the chance to do its job and plummets the pH surrounding teeth. Snacking or sipping on refined sugars is particularly bad because the bacteria responsible for lactic acid production on teeth have the easiest time metabolizing sucrose.

Reduce simple sugar intake to once a day. This will allow saliva to recover the mouths neutral pH. Also, a diet balanced between complex carbohydrates and foods high in minerals —calcium and phosphates in particular — will help prevent decay. Complex sugars will make it more difficult for bacteria to form lactic acid. Dairy products will counteract the lowering of pH caused by sweet foods and replenish the minerals needed for healthy teeth.

Establish a proper oral hygiene regimen

A good family dentist will insist that teeth are brushed at least twice daily. There are also best accepted practices to observe. Although it may be counter intuitive, brushing right after consuming a bunch of sugar is not ideal. During the period when pH has been lowered right after sugar consumption, enamel is ‘softer’ and can more easily be brushed away. Therefore brushing immediately after indulging may actually expedite tooth decay.

In conjunction with the proper diet, proper hygienic practices are necessary in the battle against decay. Brushing well twice a day, at least thirty minutes after consuming large amounts of sugar is vital. So is flossing to remove plaque from between teeth where the brush will not reach. Drinking lots of water and swishing it around is also a beneficial practice for those looking to ward off decay. Swishing before swallowing is especially important right after sugar consumption and is much preferable to brushing.

Conclusion

Talk of sugar causing tooth decay is real. Frequent consumption of sugar in food and drink will create an acidic environment in the mouth which will dissolve enamel. Overtime refined sugars and poor oral hygiene will combine to cause tooth decay.

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