Why Sugar Is So Bad for Your Teeth

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Why Sugar Is So Bad for Your Teeth

Many of us have to remind our kids, grandkids, and even ourselves that too much sugar will rot your teeth. While we all know that it’s bad for our dental health, what sugar actually does to our teeth isn’t as well known. If you’re having a hard time reducing your intake, understanding the severe effects sugar can have on teeth may help you commit to changing your diet. Let’s take a look at what makes sugar so bad for your teeth. 

The Effects of Sugar on Teeth

Technically, it’s not the sugar itself that’s so harmful to teeth. The damage comes from the destructive bacteria that form plaque. When the bacteria in your mouth consume sugar, they convert it into acids that weaken your tooth enamel and irritate your gums. The more sugar that you consume, the higher your risk of cavities, tooth infections, and gum disease—especially if you fail to brush and floss your teeth as often as you should. 

Consuming high amounts of sugar means creating a highly acidic environment in your mouth. And exposing your teeth to sugar for long periods of time, like sucking on hard candies or sipping on a soda, also leaves your teeth and gums more vulnerable to acid attacks from plaque.  

Sugar Leads to Cavities, Tooth Decay, and Gum Disease

Because sugar allows the bacteria that form plaque to thrive, they can rapidly reproduce and start building colonies. The longer that plaque sits on teeth, the more acid-producing bacteria there will be to eat away at your enamel. Over time, cavities will develop and your teeth will also be more susceptible to chips and cracks. 

Without treatment, cavities and cracks will only grow larger, allowing infectious bacteria to travel deep inside the tooth. This can cause significant pain if the infection reaches the soft dentin and sensitive pulp. It can also cause severe decay and tooth abscesses, which are extremely dangerous, because the harmful bacteria can travel to your brain

Plaque buildup also causes irritation and inflammation along the gumline, which can lead to periodontal disease. Also known as gum disease, periodontal disease is a chronic infection of the gums that quickly progresses without treatment. The bacteria can travel below the gums to attack the structures that support the teeth, eventually resulting in tooth loss. Gum disease also causes bleeding gums, which allows infectious bacteria to easily enter the bloodstream and start affecting other parts of the body.  

How to Protect Your Teeth from Sugar

1: Use Alternative Sweeteners

Whether you have a sweet tooth or use hard candies to cope with dry mouth, you don’t have to eliminate sweet treats entirely. Look for sugar-free products that contain xylitol, a plant-based sweetener that’s commonly used as a sugar substitute. Because the bad bacteria can’t eat xylitol, it will not contribute to plaque formation the way that sugar does. 

2: Maintain Good Oral Hygiene 

Even if you’re careful about limiting your sugar intake, reducing plaque buildup with daily brushing and flossing is crucial. Follow these tips to keep your mouth clean and healthy:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush, for two minutes at a time.
  • Floss thoroughly every day, including around your braces or underneath dental bridges.
  • If you wear dentures, clean them daily and soak them overnight.
  • Avoid brushing your teeth right after consuming sugary or acidic foods and drinks—wait at least 30 minutes to give your saliva time to neutralize the acids.
  • Get your teeth professionally cleaned at least twice a year to thoroughly remove plaque and tartar buildup.

3: Stay Hydrated

Dehydration can lead to dry mouth and failure to produce enough saliva. Your mouth needs saliva to neutralize harmful acids and remineralize your teeth, so make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Drinking water right after consuming sugar can help dilute the acids that bacteria produce, minimizing the damage. 

Keep Your Teeth Healthy with Regular Dental Checkups

From tooth decay to gum disease, sugar can wreak havoc on your mouth. But limiting your sugar intake simply isn’t enough. Having your teeth cleaned and examined by your dentist on a regular basis is essential in preventing cavities and gum disease. Dr. Saba and Associates in Sun Lakes will help you keep your smile bright and your mouth healthy with comprehensive preventive care. Call us at 480-895-2111 today to schedule an appointment. 


Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (1/8/2024). Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash