We all love things like cake and ice cream, and while it always makes our taste buds happy, there are probably not that many of us that thinking about how those foods can cause tooth decay and gum disease. When it does cross our minds, we typically believe that it’s the sugar that causes tooth decay, but it might surprise you to know it’s a chain reaction that takes place after you eat that piece of pie. Once your enamel is gone, it’s gone forever, so it’s imperative that you look after your teeth and gums and limit your intake of sugar. Here at Scott Edwards DDS, we want to make sure that you know how sugar affects your teeth and oral health, so you don’t have to experience discomfort from sensitive teeth or gums as a result of gum disease or destroyed enamel.
We’ve all heard of cavities, and most of us have probably had one at some time or another. Although, most of us also are probably not familiar with how they start. Sugar is not the direct cause of cavities. The mouth is full of hundreds of bacteria, and some are very good for the mouth. There are certain bacterias, though, that feed on the sugars that we eat. Those bacterias then create acid that destroys tooth enamel, which is the protective outer layer of teeth. Cavities are in fact a bacterial infection that is created by acids, and when it builds up, it creates a hole in your tooth. If it’s left untreated, it can progress past the top layers of the tooth and can cause pain and possible tooth loss.
Now, teeth are always fighting against acids, but the good news is that it usually doesn’t do much damage because there’s an equal reverse-reaction. The acids that are produced take minerals from the enamel in a process called demineralization. However, the process of remineralization replaces those minerals and strengthens the enamel all over again. Saliva and fluoride are key players in this process: Saliva contains minerals like calcium and phosphate that help repair teeth, while fluoride from the water helps restore weak enamel. Unfortunately, your mouth can only replace minerals so much at a time and eating sugar and starch throughout the day can hinder this process. Acid does the most damage for about 20 minutes after you eat - which is called “acid attacks” - so the more sugary foods you eat throughout the day, the more your teeth will be exposed to those acids. That’s why limiting your sugar and starch intake daily is essential if you want to make sure that your teeth are replacing your enamel faster than the acid is destroying it.
There are a few ways to help remineralization occur. This one might sound a little icky, but salivating is very helpful in coating teeth and making sure there’s plenty of minerals to go around, and there are a couple of ways to stimulate saliva production. You can chew on sugarless gum or incorporate more fibrous vegetables into your diet. Also, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products have plenty of calcium and phosphates that would help strengthen the teeth. There are also drinks that can help with suppressing the harmful bacteria, such as green tea and black tea - obviously without sugar - and they can contribute to keeping the balance of minerals. Drinking fluoridated water is also extremely helpful in preventing tooth decay because not only does it prevent it, but it reverses it in its early stages. So drinking fluoridated water and brushing your teeth after eating sugary foods with toothpaste that is American Dental Association (ADA) approved is very helpful in preventing tooth decay.
You might also want to adjust your diet if you want to keep the process from happening in the first place. You’ve heard it before, but eating a balanced diet of grains, vegetables, protein, and low-fat dairy does help with this process. It’s impossible to eliminate sugars from your diet, but you can still control how much you intake and reduce the amount of time that your teeth are susceptible to acid attacks. Try and limit snacking between meals as well, as that’s where most of our sugary snacks come into play, or at least try and eat healthier snacks, like peanut butter, cheese, or fruit. If you want to have that piece of cake so badly, try and eat it at the end of the meal or right before brushing your teeth rather than throughout the day. Lastly, try to avoid intake of sugary drinks, and try to drink water more often. Sometimes even fruit juices can have a lot of sugar or hidden sugar, so only drink those in moderation. On that note, watch out for products that say “low-sugar” or “sugar-free”, because low-sugar and sugar-free products use artificial sweeteners, and those can prove to cause potential health risks, and it can still create an acidic environment in your mouth.
Gum recession and disease is also caused by acidic foods, sugary foods, and cold foods. Acidic foods like citrus fruits, white bread or pasta made with white flour, and pickled or fermented foods and beverages can cause bacteria to contribute to gum disease. Chewy carbs, such as bread or donuts, can stick to or get stuck in teeth, which recedes and that can lead to gum inflammation and gingivitis. When gums recede, the nerves are exposed, and that can make them super sensitive to cold foods and drinks as well, which would require special toothpaste to soothe, so take care of your gums early and try to eat less acidic and sugary foods.
If sugar consumption has caused tooth decay or gum disease for you, don’t wait to get it fixed. Call Scott Edwards DDShttp://www.scottedwardsdds.com/ at (901)-681-0011 and schedule a consultation and restore your oral health today.