Everyone loves to enjoy occasional ice cream, cookie or a piece of cake. A fair share of sugary food doesn’t affect your oral health.
However, too much consumption of sweet food and beverages may adversely affect your teeth.
Sugar in the food is the prime source of nutrition for oral bacteria. The bacteria produce acids as by-products which eventually cause tooth decay.
Most of us must have heard from our dentists and parents that eating sweet food or sugary drinks contribute to dental caries and cavities.
Truth to be told, if you are a person with a sweet tooth, it is challenging to say no to sugar.
Fortunately, there are ways to protect your teeth from cavities while you indulge in your cravings.
Let’s find out in the article, the different steps you can take to prevent tooth decay and cavities.
What is a cavity?
A cavity may present clinically as a hollow surface on the teeth. It may be yellow or black.
Some common symptoms may include –
- Difficulty in chewing
- Inflammation of surrounding gums
- Tooth loss
- Pulp infection
- Periapical abscess (2)
What causes cavities?
A cavity is an advanced stage of tooth decay. Three main factors cause tooth decay and cavity formation –
- Dental plaque
- Oral bacteria
- Sugar or carbohydrate
These three combine to form bacterial acids that deteriorate the tooth structure over time. The result is cavity formation.
What role does sugar play in causing cavities?
Sugar is a rich source of nutrition for oral bacteria. Bacteria in the mouth produces a layer of plaque on the surface of the tooth.
Plaque is a sticky coat that allows the bacteria to accumulate on the surface of the teeth. When such bacteria come in contact with food rich in sugar, it ferments the sugar to produce bacteria acids. (3)
These bacterial acids attack the layer of enamel. Over time, the enamel demineralizes and forms a hollow cavity on the surface of the tooth.
A study done was done in the U.S, to examine an association between sugar intake and loss of teeth. The study showed that about 26% of the population lost at least one permanent tooth as a consequence of excessive sugar intake. (4)
Limiting the amount of sugar intake may help to reduce the impacts of tooth decay.
How can you prevent sugar from causing cavities?
Cut down your sugar intake
Only you can decide how much sugar you want to put in your body.
Many dentists say that drinking a sugary beverage may cause cavities at a faster rate. Drinking sugary beverages coats all the surfaces of the teeth. It increases the chances of tooth decay in an individual.
If you are a person who has a sweet tooth, you can switch to natural sugar substitutes instead of processed sugar.
Natural sugar usually contains a mixture of ingredients that may contain several beneficial elements like vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals. (5)
Some sugar substitutes may include –
- Raw honey extract
- Stevia and xylitol are alternative sweeteners. These are safe for the teeth
- Fruits contain natural sugar which is healthy to consume
Brush your teeth
Brushing your teeth regularly helps you to stay away from the misery of dental caries.
But keep in mind to not brush immediately after eating a sweet or consuming a sugary drink. Wait for at least 30 minutes and then brush or floss your teeth.
Since the acids and sugar get stuck on the surface of the teeth, immediate brushing may increase the incidence of tooth breakdown.
Use a mouth rinse
A mouth rinse helps to wash away the sticky sugar and residual acids from the surface of the teeth.
Mouth rinse also contains fluoride which helps to strengthen the enamel. It remineralizes the tooth structure.
If you don’t want to use a mouth rinse, rinse your mouth with drinking water after every meal. It helps to wash away the food particles and plaque.
Saliva is a natural tooth protector. It flushes the food debris and plaque from the tooth surface. Saliva also provides essential minerals that help in remineralization of the tooth structure.
The antimicrobial activity of saliva helps to lower down the bacterial load.
Chewing sugar-free gums increases the production of saliva in the mouth. It helps to activate the salivary glands and enhance the beneficial effects of saliva.
Stick to your dental routine
Regular oral care is essential to prevent tooth decay and cavity formation, especially for a person with a sweet tooth.
The key to preventing tooth decay is to quickly remove the sugar and plaque from the surface of the teeth. This prevents the accumulation of oral bacteria and acid production.
Follow the steps below to maintain good oral hygiene –
- Brush your teeth regularly at least two times a day
- Brush for at least two minutes covering all the surfaces of your teeth
- Floss your teeth at least once in a day
- Use a mouth rinse for additional benefits
- Visit your dentist every six months to keep a check on your dental health
Take away message
Sugar is the prime cause of tooth decay. Sweets and sugary food items must be limited to occasional treats.
Healthy snacks are an excellent way to replace sweets. Sugar substitutes can also be as satisfying as processed sugar.
Always choose snacks that don’t stick to your teeth and can be cleaned easily. Sugar stuck on the tooth surface acts as a host for oral bacteria to reside.
Although avoiding sugar is the best way to prevent a cavity, there are other methods that you can follow to maintain good health of your teeth and gums.
Now that you’ve learned about the different ways of preventing sugar from causing cavities, it is time to put it in practical use. Be aware and live healthily.