Sugar is a major cause of tooth decay and cavities. Sugar can be found in many foods that we eat, such as cookies, candies, soda, and more.
Tooth decay is the gradual breakdown or destruction of the tooth enamel, the hard outer layer of the tooth that resists bacteria and protects our teeth from damage. When bacteria and plaque are allowed to build up on the teeth and are not regularly cleared away by brushing and flossing, the acids produced by these bacteria begin to eat away at the tooth enamel. Over time, this can cause holes in the teeth as well as severe pain. These holes are known as cavities.
Cavities are caused when sugary foods and drinks linger in the mouth and are broken down by the naturally-occurring oral bacteria present there. Even healthy foods like apples and carrots can produce harmful acids when they are consumed in excess. Plaque buildup occurs when food particles aren’t cleaned away from the teeth after eating. Plaque is a sticky substance that clings to the teeth and can eventually break down into tartar if it remains untreated. Tartar is far harder than normal tooth enamel and can only be removed by a dentist.
Actually, it’s not sugar that causes cavities. Tooth decay occurs when the sugars we consume interact with bacteria that live in the mouth and produce acid as a byproduct of that interaction. This acid wears away at a tooth’s enamel and results in cavities. If left untreated, the cavity will grow larger and eventually cause the tooth to fall out. This is why good oral hygiene habits like brushing your teeth at least twice a day and flossing every day are vital for keeping your teeth and gums healthy.
When patients consume one too many sugary foods and drinks, they place their oral health at risk. Brushing and flossing are still necessary after consuming these types of foods because they remove the bacteria and food particles from the mouth before they can be converted into acid.
While it’s good to be aware of which types of food and drinks can damage our teeth, it’s also important to know which foods and beverages can actually protect the health of our teeth. Water is a great beverage choice for its many health benefits, including protecting teeth from plaque and stains. It’s also a good idea to eat crunchy fruits and vegetables such as apples or carrots, which can help remove plaque from the teeth and freshen your breath!
Using fluoride toothpaste every day can also help strengthen and protect the teeth against acid erosion. Adequately cleaning between the teeth with dental floss can help prevent the formation of plaque as well.
The best way to prevent tooth decay is to brush your teeth twice each day using a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride-based toothpaste. Brush your teeth for at least two minutes each time to make sure you reach all of the nooks and crannies of your mouth. Be sure to brush your tongue as well as your cheeks and the roof of your mouth. Bacteria love to breed in these areas and contribute to bad breath in addition to spreading to the teeth to cause cavities. Floss your teeth at least once per day. A Waterpik can also be helpful for hard-to-reach areas of the mouth that a toothbrush cannot easily reach. Drinking plenty of water can also help prevent tooth decay and cavities.