Most people know how important it is to brush your teeth and avoid excessive sugar intake to protect your teeth from cavities and tooth decay.
But do you actually know what different types of sugar are out there and how they affect your teeth?
We all have plaque on our teeth, the sticky film that is filled with bacteria. That’s why it’s important to brush and clean our teeth regularly. When that plaque interacts with the sugar we eat, bad outcomes can ensue.
Let’s learn what types of sugar you might consume as well as how it affects your teeth both in the short term and the long-term.
Types of Sugar
When you think about the sugar you consume, you can think of it in two main categories: natural sugar and added sugar.
Natural sugar is found in foods such as fruit, dairy, grains, and vegetables. Added sugar is found in foods such as candy, soft drinks, cookies, and processed food.
While natural sugar is generally considered better for your body than added sugar, both types of sugar can negatively affect your teeth.
Added sugar is often more damaging because it’s usually present in higher levels than natural sugar, and it tends to stick to your teeth more and be more difficult to remove.
Short-Term Effects of Sugar on Your Teeth
In the short-term, sugar sticks to your teeth and begins the process of decay. When you consume something containing sugar, it interacts with bacteria which is part of the plaque naturally found in your mouth.
The sugar serves as energy for the bacteria, and the byproduct is an acid that is damaging to your teeth.
Once the acid is formed, it begins to affect your teeth by dissolving and attacking enamel and dentin, the hard protective surfaces on your teeth.
Over time, the acid demineralizes your teeth and can lead to small holes forming, which most of us refer to as cavities.
This leads to the long-term effects of sugar on your teeth.
Long-Term Effects of Sugar on Your Teeth
The damage the sugar causes when it interacts with the bacteria in your mouth is cumulative.
Over time, the acid continues to wear away at your enamel and dentin, eventually forming cavities. This is why cavities and tooth decay are often seen in adults — it’s a process which may actually take years.
Consuming more sugar has been associated with developing more cavities, which is why limiting sugar intake is so important.
Once a cavity forms, it can sometimes remineralize, but often needs to be professionally filled by a dentist.
The cavity itself can cause pain and sensitivity, which can make it difficult to eat and talk. This may lead to decreased productivity at work for adults and trouble learning at school for children.
Cavities can also lead to other dental problems as well.
If the decay is prolonged and goes untreated, it can eventually lead to an abscess, which is a type of severe infection, and an abscess even tooth removal.
Cavities can also lead to the need for a root canal, a very common and unpleasant procedure in adults.
How to Protect Your Teeth From Sugar
To protect your teeth from the harmful effects of sugar, the best and most obvious thing to do is to avoid as much sugar in your diet as possible.
Cut down on soft drinks, candy, and baked goods.
Since it’s impossible to avoid sugar altogether, it’s also imperative to have regular dental cleanings, which are recommended every six months for most people.