One of the most well-known pieces of advice for good oral health states that cutting back on sugar can reduce the risk of cavities and gum disease. That is absolutely true, but limiting your intake of the sweet stuff can be challenging, especially if you enjoy candy, soda, and other goodies. Let’s talk about the specifics of how sugar impacts oral health in Colorado Springs. We’ll also provide some tips to help you enjoy sugar without endangering your smile.
How Sugar Affects the Teeth and Gums
Sugar by itself doesn’t do anything to your teeth and gums. However, it becomes a threat when it combines with bacteria in your mouth. The bacteria consume the sugar and begin to flourish. A biofilm, called plaque, then forms on the teeth. Plaque can weaken the tooth enamel and lead to cavities. If it is left on the teeth for too long, it can harden into tartar, which is impossible to remove with at-home oral hygiene tools. The bacteria that thrive on sugar can also infect the gum tissue, leading to gingivitis or periodontitis.
Sugar’s Indirect Impact on Oral Health
Overconsumption of sugar across a lengthy period of time can lead to a range of issues that adversely affect oral health. For example, a diet high in sugar and starches increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, which is strongly associated with gum disease. It can also contribute to a dry mouth, and a dry mouth is dangerous because without enough saliva to rinse away bacteria and food particles, the risk of cavities increases.
Should You Stop Eating Sugar?
While reducing your sugar intake would be a smart move for your oral health, you don’t have to completely cut it out of your life. Here are a few tips to protect your teeth and gums:
- Remember that not all sugary foods and drinks are the same. In most cases, added sugars (those placed into food for extra flavor) are much worse than natural sugars. It is generally safer to snack on a sweet piece of fruit than to sip on a soda.
- It’s better to eat your sugar all at once. A piece of cake after dinner may be better for your teeth than several small candies consumed throughout the day. This is because each new bite of sugar begins an “acid attack” on your teeth. Eating your sugar within a short period of time limits your mouth’s exposure to acid and bacteria.
- Drink water. Sipping on water after you consume something sugary can help to rinse away bacteria and food particles in your mouth.
- Brush your teeth. About 30 – 60 minutes after you eat something sugary, brush your teeth to remove any new plaque that has formed.
Sugar is bad for your oral health, but if you enjoy sweet treats, you don’t have to stop consuming them altogether. A few simple precautions can protect your smile!
Meet the Dentist
Dr. Erick Anderson is a general dentist in Colorado Springs with more than 25 years of experience. He and our team are always happy to provide advice on how our patients can adjust their eating habits to improve their oral health. To learn more about how we may be able to serve you, contact us at 719-593-0988.