How Sugar Affects Your Teeth

Lowering Your Sugar Intake Can Boost Your Oral Hygiene

You’ve probably heard from your dentist that sugar is ‘bad’ for your teeth, and that you should limit how much sugar you consume. But have you ever wondered why?

The relationship between sugar and teeth is complicated. Beyond the fact that sugar can cause cavities, there are a ton of reasons why a high sugar intake might harm your teeth.

We’re not saying you should avoid sugar at all costs – believe it or not, even your dentist enjoys candy and ice cream every now and then! However, we want you to be aware of the dangers of a high sugar intake, and how you can protect your teeth against the damage that sugar can cause.

How Sugar Can Sneak Up On You With Different Names

First, what is sugar?

The word is an umbrella term that refers to carbohydrates that are sweet and soluble. There are plenty of types of sugar, and each has its own name, usually ending in ‘-ose’. For that reason, you might underestimate how much sugar a food item has based on its list of ingredients.

All of these terms refer to a type of sugar: sucrose, glucose, dextrose, fructose, lactose, and maltose. You’ll probably see one of more of these in the ingredients list of cereals and sugary snacks.

FACT: A carbohydrate is a chemical compound consisting of carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen. Each type of sugar has its own specific chemical structure.

Why You Should Avoid a High Sugar Intake

Plaque Buildup

Sugary foods can cause plaque buildup, especially without proper oral hygiene. Plaque can eat away at your enamel, which is the outer layer on teeth that protects against cavities and other issues. Plaque also hardens to form tartar, which can cause gum disease and other problems. We’ve elaborated on a few common problems below.

Cavities 

Also known as tooth decay, cavities are holes in your teeth. They are caused by bacteria found in plaque, a film-like layer that can form on your teeth without proper oral hygiene. When sugar meets that bacteria, it forms an acid that breaks down your teeth’s protective outer layer. This ultimately leads to the creation of cavities, which need to be filled, or the tooth will need to be removed.

pH Balance of Your Saliva

Your saliva has a pH level – that means that your saliva falls somewhere on the scale between acidic and alkaline. Healthy saliva falls somewhere in the middle of that scale, and saliva too far in either direction can signify certain diseases. Some foods can change the pH level of your saliva – sugary foods, for example, are often very acidic. Saliva that becomes too acidic can lead to worn down enamel and sensitive teeth.

Gum Disease

Sugar intake can affect the health of your gums, too. The soft tissue around your teeth face the risk of periodontitis, or gum disease. This is an infection that leaves your gums feeling weak, inflamed, and sensitive. It is caused by plaque, which hardens and forms tartar. Sugar can speed up this process and increase the risk of gum disease.

What You Can Do To Fight Back Against Sugar’s Damage to Your Teeth

Brush and Floss – Especially After Eating Sugar

Plenty of oral health problems are caused or enhanced by sugar interacting with bacteria in your plaque. So, if you eat sugar, try to make sure you have as little plaque as possible. There’s one solid way to do this: brush and floss regularly. We recommend brushing twice a day for at least two minutes per session. Visiting the dentist regularly can help too, as the dentist can remove plaque and tartar and monitor your oral hygiene.

Check Nutrition Labels

The less sugar you consume, the better your mouth will fare. The best way to cut down on sugar is to check food labels. The nutritional information can show you specifically how much sugar is in a serving, while the ingredients list can show you which types of sugar, like sucrose or glucose, are in the item.

Regular Dental Checkups

Visiting the dentist regularly is an important part of any complete oral health routine. A dentist can remove plaque and tartar safely, diagnose and treat conditions like tooth decay and gum disease, and give you direct advice that pertains to your oral hygiene. We recommend scheduling appointments at least once every six months.

The Takeaway

Everyone gets a sweet tooth from time to time. It’s important, though, to understand the risks associated with a high sugar intake. From cavities to gum disease and acidic saliva, there are so many reasons to keep an eye on your sugar intake for the sake of your oral health.

At Blue Haven Dental, we’re ready to help you achieve your healthiest smile. Your dentist can help you determine how your diet affects your oral health, and answer similar questions you may have.