Everyone knows that eating too much sugar is bad for your teeth and can lead to tooth decay (aka cavities). But, have you ever wondered exactly how that happens? It’s not the sugar itself that’s the culprit, but rather the chain of events that take place after you eat it.
Tooth decay is caused by acid producing bacteria that feasts on starches and carbohydrates, be it sugar from candy or starch from wholesome foods such as bread. There tons of different types of bacteria that live in our mouths. Not all of the bacteria that our mouth harbors is “bad”. Most of it does no harm. However, there is one that is the main cause of tooth decay; Streptococcus mutans. Sugar is a magnet for this bacteria that lives in our mouth. The s. mutans bacteria jumps into action to begin breaking down sugar as soon as it lands on your teeth. As it “feeds” on the sugar, the bacteria produces an acidic substance that can eat away at your tooth enamel, which is the protective outer layer of a tooth. These acids cause a build-up of plaque that can eat away at the tooth enamel causing tiny little holes and wedges to form. Overtime, if left untreated, the acid can progress past the outer layer of enamel and deeper into the tooth.
Luckily, there are simple things you can do daily to lessen the chance of a cavity in your future.
1. Brushing regularly will clear away food residue and keep the effects of decay causing acids in check.
2. Floss regularly! Flossing isn’t just to remove little bits of food from between your teeth. It also helps remove cavity producing plaque.
3. Use a fluoridated mouthwash to help break up any plaque or food particles that have adhered to the teeth.
4. Drink lots of water to “wash” your teeth.
Maintaining good daily dental hygiene is essential to keeping the bacteria at bay and helps reverse the negative effects sugar can have on teeth.