Does Sugar Really Cause Cavities?

1) What is a Cavity?

A cavity, also known as a dental caries or tooth decay, is essentially a hole in your tooth. When the tooth enamel becomes weakened due to severe de-mineralisation, the structure of the tooth is eroded and creates a hole. Unfortunately, if cavities are left untreated they will grow bigger and deeper over time and can affect nearby teeth.

Related: How to Reduce baby Bottle tooth decay And Sugar Intake

2) Your Mouth is a Battlefield

Inside your mouth, there is a microbiome that contains many different types of bacteria, some good and some harmful to your dental health. Some of these harmful bacteria feed on the sugars present in the food and drink you consume and produce acid.

The acid leeches the minerals from the protective enamel layer of your tooth causing the structure to weaken and creating small holes.

Fortunately, your mouth has a secret weapon: your saliva. Saliva can help wash away food particles and bacteria, neutralise your oral pH and carries mineralising compounds to reinforce the tooth enamel.

3) How Sugar Causes Cavities?

Harmful bacteria are attracted to sugar as if offers a food source. The two bacteria responsible for the most tooth damage naturally occur in your mouth and are called Streptococcus mutans and Streptococcus sorbrinus.

As these bacteria begin to feed on the sugars present in food, they produce a sticky biofilm over the colony called plaque which helps to protect the colony while they feed. The waste product of sugar digestion is acid which, if not regularly washed away with saliva or brushing, eventually lowers the pH of the mouth.

When your mouth pH becomes lower than pH 5.5, the acid begins to erode the tooth enamel causing a hole.

4) Foods That Cause Tooth Decay

  • High-Sugar Snacks

High sugar snacks and snacks high in carbohydrates such as lollies, crisps, and crackers are an excellent food source for bacteria. Frequent snacking increases the amount of time your teeth are exposed to sugary substances which increase the level of bacterial activity and acid production. It also does not allow enough time for your mouth’s natural protective mechanisms to remineralise your teeth.

  • Sugary and Acidic Beverages

Sugary beverages such as soda or fruit juice are one of the biggest causes of cavities due to the additional acid content. These sugary beverages lower your mouth pH allowing bacteria to infiltrate and erode your tooth enamel.

Studies have shown that people who regularly consume sugar-laden beverages are more likely to develop cavities, and all dentists recommend limiting your intake of sugary drinks to reduce the likelihood of developing cavities.

  • Sipping on Sugary Beverages

How you drink sugary beverages can also have a significant impact on your tooth health. Sipping soft drinks throughout the day increases the level of exposure of the tooth to both sugar and acid which gives the bacteria more time to damage your teeth.

It can also override the process of remineralisation as more calcium and phosphate ions are removed from the enamel than can be replaced.

  • Sticky Foods

Sticky foods are those that offer long-lasting sources of sugar such as dried fruits and lollipops. Because these foods are sticky they are more easily lodged in the crevices of your teeth and challenging to remove increasing the exposure of your teeth to sugar and providing the bacteria with a constant food supply.

Related: Nutrients and Foods Essential for Your Dental Health

5) Tips for Preventing Cavities with Sugar

  • Understand Your Vulnerability to Cavities

While sugar does play a large role in the development of cavities, but several other factors can contribute to an increased risk of tooth decay such as genetics, age and your overall mouth microbiome.

If you need emergency dental care, ask your emergency dentist in Telford how you can screen for bacterial types in your mouth to assess whether you are at a higher risk of tooth decay.

  • Limit Frequency of Snacking

Exposure to sugar is the largest contributor to tooth cavities, so you can reduce the amount of time that bacteria can access sugar by limiting the frequency of snacking. Dentists recommend sticking to 3 meals per day for adults and three meals and two snacks for children. If you do eat sugary foods, eat them with your meal as the nutritional content of your meals as well as the increased saliva production can help mitigate some of the effects of the sugar.

  • Choose the Right Sweets

If you do choose to snack, try to choose the right types of snacks and sweets. Raw fruits and vegetables are nutrient dense and high in fibre to protect teeth and gums, while dairy products such as cheese and yogurt contain essential minerals that can help to remineralise teeth.

  • Start Healthy Post-Sugar Habits

Dentists suggest that there are a few ways you can reduce the negative impact of sugar after you eat. Try rinsing your mouth out with clean water after eating, and wait at least 30 minutes before brushing your teeth after eating sugar to allow the enamel to harden and remineralise to prevent wear.

6) Practice Good Oral Hygiene

The best way to protect your teeth and prevent cavities is with an excellent oral hygiene routine. Make sure you brush and floss twice per day with a soft bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste, and visit your dentist every six months for a check-up.

Author Bio:

Broseley Dental Practice Ltd. is a modern Private and NHS dentist in Broseley, Shropshire. The Principal Dentist, Dr Manoj Joshi has over a decade’s experience and is committed to providing quality care to patients of all ages.

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