These days, it’s virtually impossible to avoid sugar. It’s in everything we eat from foods to snacks and beverages. Even many natural food products contain sugar in some form. In recent times, there has been growing awareness about the dangers of consuming large amounts of sugary foods and drinks. Most times, the message is usually about the debilitating health effects of sugar on your internal organs. However, since your mouth is the entry point for any food you take into your body, it is one of the parts of your body most affected by the potential side effects of taking sugar.
Despite the bad rep, sugar isn’t entirely bad for your body. It supplies much-needed energy to the body but it does have a few side effects. To find a balance between the good and bad sides, it is important that you understand the potential side effects of sugar and how to safeguard your teeth. The following are the side effects of sugar on your teeth and the steps you can take to avoid them.
Sugar Changes the PH of Your Mouth
Many microorganisms in the mouth need sugar to thrive. Two of the most destructive ones commonly found in people’s mouths are Streptococcus mutans and Streptococcus sobrinus. These two bacteria thrive better in the presence of sugar. The two types of streptococcus are responsible for forming plaque on your teeth. Plaque formed by these two bacteria can be quite acidic. If you leave the plaque on your teeth for too long, it is likely to start corroding your teeth enamel leading to teeth sensitivity and other related issues.
It Can Cause Tooth Decay (Cavities)
One of the unwanted consequences of allowing bacteria to grow unfettered in your mouth is the development of cavities in your teeth. These are holes in your teeth’ enamel caused by the activities of microorganisms. People who regularly consume sugary foods are prone to tooth decay. Cavities or teeth decay occurs when the outer layers of your teeth develop tiny holes that open up to the inner layers. Harmful bacteria in your mouth feed on the sugar and starches you consume, and they produce plagues that contain acids. This sticky and yellow buildup on your teeth leaves a hole, or cavity, in your mouth. With time, more germs enter the tooth through this cavity and continue to wear it away.
Basic dental hygiene is the most effective way to reduce the amount of plaque on your teeth. You should brush at least twice a day while paying close attention to the spaces between your teeth. You’re more likely to get to difficult-to-reach places by flossing rather than by flossing the teeth normally. Small cavities can seem like a minor issue at first, but if left untreated, they can cause toothaches, infections, and eventually tooth loss. In the early stages, most patients are notably unaware that they have cavities. However, regular dental appointments are crucial because they enable us to detect and treat any holes before they worsen and cause severe problems with your oral health.
Gum Disease (Gingivitis & Periodontitis)
Aside from producing enamel-eating acids, sugars also support the growth of bacteria that cause gingivitis and other forms of gum disease. These infections can destroy the protective tissues that hold your teeth in place. These infections can also cause your gums to pull away from your teeth. Periodontitis, a condition that affects the gum tissues and the bones underneath the gums, can develop in your mouth as a result of excessive consumption of sugary foods. Generally, if you don’t treat gingivitis, it can progress into periodontitis which is a more advanced and more serious case. In addition to the damage done to your oral health, Periodontitis-related bacteria can spread throughout the body and mouth, attacking joints, connective tissue, and organs, including the kidneys, liver, and lungs.
Foods heavy in white processed sugar are particularly harmful because they stick to your teeth and are often too strong for the saliva in your mouth to rinse naturally. Only brushing, flossing, mouthwash, and dental cleanings may eliminate this buildup. While consuming sugar in moderation doesn’t do much harm to your teeth, regular munching on meals high in sugar lengthens the time of your teeth’s exposure to the acids’ erosive effects. It leads to different types of gum infections
It Slows Down Remineralization
Remineralization is your body’s way of restoring calcium and phosphates to your teeth to strengthen the tooth enamel. While it happens naturally in everyone, using toothpaste, mouthwashes, and water rich in Fluoride can help speed up the rate of mineralization. Eating foods rich in sugar does the opposite.
The acids produced by the bacteria on your teeth degrade the enamel quickly, removing minerals faster than your teeth can produce new ones. If allowed to progress naturally, remineralization can be effective for restoring tooth enamel. However, because the rate of decay is typically faster, remineralization becomes ineffective in the long run. Thus, the best way to ensure teeth remineralization progress as it should is to avoid eating sugar-rich foods that may speed up the rate of mineral loss in your teeth.
Sugar on your teeth can become very unpleasant, unfortunately, it is impossible to eliminate carbohydrates from your diet entirely. All you can do is pay attention to your sugar intake and take steps to mitigate the risks. Even so-called healthy snacks may still contain a lot of sugar that may adversely affect your teeth in the long run. Cutting down on your sugar intake and maintaining good oral hygiene is the best way to protect your dental health against damage caused by harmful sugar-loving bacteria. If you must eat a treat, it is best to go for lighter ones that stay in your mouth for less resulting in less bacterial growth. In addition to maintaining a proper oral care routine, you should also schedule routine visits to your dentist to have your teeth checked.