The effects of sugar on oral health
As this week is national Sugar Awareness Week we thought it would be the perfect time to talk about the links between sugar and poor oral health. Everyone knows that sugar is bad for our teeth, but not many of us know exactly how sugar affects our oral health- something which will be explained in this blog.
Bacteria and Sugars
Your mouth is full of bacteria- and I mean full! Around 100-200 species of bacteria are living inside your mouth right now, and someone who doesn’t practice good oral hygiene can have up to 1 BILLION bacteria on a single tooth surface. Most of these bacteria benefit the oral ecosystem, however some bacteria, including one called Streptococcus mutans, can be extremely detrimental to your oral health- Streptococcus mutans is known as the biggest culprit in tooth decay, as it promotes the production of acids and enzymes in the mouth. Many people think that it’s the sugar itself which causes tooth decay, however, that’s not the case- this harmful bacteria actually transforms sugar into acids and enzymes which break down tooth enamel and cause a host of oral health problems, from cavities to sensitive teeth.
A battle in your mouth
Your teeth are constantly under attack by acids, but luckily the teeth have developed a way to reverse the damage through a process called remineralisation. Acids remove minerals from your teeth enamel, weakening the teeth and making it easier for decay to occur, however, these minerals are replaced by the body naturally! Saliva is an essential ingredient in the process of remineralisation, as it contains minerals like phosphates and calcium which help to repair the teeth. In addition, fluoride not only helps to repair damage to the teeth, but it also can reverse its early stages. It’s definitely good to know that your mouth has natural defences against sugar, but they can only help so much- eating an excess of sugary or starchy foods is still incredibly harmful to your oral health.
Methods of prevention
It may sound obvious, but reducing how much sugar you eat is undoubtedly the most effective way to prevent sugar’s harmful effects on the mouth. However, nowadays it can be incredibly difficult to know how much sugar you’re eating, as many foods you wouldn’t expect to be sugary (like BBQ sauce, granola and baked beans) actually contain very high amounts of sugar! Saliva is important to prevent tooth decay, so we recommend trying to stimulate the production of saliva by chewing sugar-free gum and eating fibrous fruits and vegetables like raspberries and potatoes. Brushing your teeth twice a day is also essential to keep tooth decay at bay, as toothpaste contains the previously mentioned mineral fluoride, which together with the minerals found in saliva create an effective barrier against the acids caused by consuming sugar.
If you are worried that your teeth are becoming damaged from high sugar consumption, don’t hesitate to book an appointment with us at Strand on the Green Dental Practice by calling 020 8995 0298, as it’s not too late to reverse the damage to your teeth that sugar causes.