Added sugar is present in so many different foods, from barbeque sauce to your favorite
sweets. Even foods generally thought of as “healthy” such as sweetened yogurts and salad dressings can contain added sugar. Too much sugar in your diet isn’t just associated with weight gain and chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, but it also affects your oral health. How does sugar impact your teeth?
Oral Bacteria Feed on Sugar to Produce Acid
Your mouth contains dozens of different types of bacteria, and not all of them are bad. Some help balance bad bacteria to keep your mouth healthy and resist damage that can result in cavities and gum disease. However, oral bacteria metabolize sugar and produce acid as a result . This acid is what harms teeth, so eating more sugar in your diet, especially frequently throughout the day, can cause your oral cavity to be more acidic and contribute to oral disease.
Acid Harms Your Tooth Enamel and Dentin
Acid produced by oral bacteria when they metabolize sugar harms your tooth enamel, which is the outermost, protective layer of your teeth, and dentin, the softer tissue underneath.
When tooth enamel is worn away due to acids, it doesn’t grow back. This can result in oral health problems such as :
- Increased risk for cavities. Tooth enamel protects teeth from bacteria that can cause tooth decay, but when tooth enamel is compromised, bacteria can attack dentin and lead to the formation of a cavity, which may appear as a dark spot on the tooth.
- Tooth sensitivity. Enamel also keeps hot and cold temperatures from reaching the pulp of your teeth, where sensitive nerve tissue lives. When enamel is worn away, teeth can become more sensitive.
- Discolored teeth. Dentin naturally has a more yellow color than tooth enamel, so missing tooth enamel can result in teeth that appear more yellow or discolored.
With all the harmful effects consuming sugar has on your teeth, it makes sense to reduce your sugar consumption to protect your oral health!
What About Sugar-Free Foods and Drinks?
While sugar-free foods and drinks would seem to be healthy replacements for those that contain natural sugar, evidence shows that these products can still have an acidic effect on teeth due to their artificial sugar substitutes . If you’re considering sugar-free products, remember to use caution just as you would with products that contain sugar!
Protect Your Teeth by Limiting Your Sugar Consumption
You can protect teeth by limiting your sugar consumption, but as this isn’t always feasible, you can also drink plenty of water and minimize your sugar intake instead of snacking all day.
It’s also best to wait to brush teeth until about an hour after you’ve stopped eating—brushing any sooner can damage tooth enamel that’s been weakened from acids after eating sugar. As always, your dentist is there to help you keep your teeth healthy and minimize sugar’s effect on your smile!