Ever since you were a kid, your local dental hygienist has warned you that too much sugar will rot your teeth and cause cavities. While this is true more often than not, that’s not all there is to it. Excess sugar usually does lead to oral health problems, but it is not the direct cause of cavities.
What really causes cavities?
While sugar doesn’t directly cause cavities, this doesn’t mean you should eat as much of it as you want, whenever you want. Too much sugar isn’t the actual cause of cause of cavities, but it sure does make it harder to prevent unwanted cavities when you’re scarfing down Twinkies all day. So what’s really going on in your mouth when you eat sugar?
There are loads of bacteria that live in your mouth, some good and some bad. When you eat sugary foods, the bad bacteria in your mouth start to feed off that sugar. The oral bacteria then produce acid after coming into contact with the sugar. When too much of this acid is produced, it eats away at your enamel and eventually produces unwanted cavities. So while sugar may help the cavity process along, it isn’t the source of cavities.
Does this mean I can never eat sugar again?
Many healthy foods like fruits and vegetables contain natural sugars that your body needs to thrive. So we shouldn’t kick sugar out of the picture altogether just because it’s known to correlate with getting cavities. Foods high in sugars like most desserts and candies should be avoided and kept to a minimum. Too much of these foods will increase your risk of developing cavities.
How can you prevent cavities when you have a sweet tooth?
If you’re someone who absolutely can’t live without sugary treats and drinks, there are many ways you can prevent getting cavities while still giving in to your sweet tooth. The most important aspect of cavity prevention is maintaining good oral hygiene. So if you can do that, you can still eat your favorite sweets and treats in moderation. Here are some ways you can keep your teeth healthy even if you consume a little too much sugar:
- Brush often: Brushing your teeth often is the best way to ward off unwanted plaque. Brushing after consuming a lot of sugar will reduce the chances of bacteria feeding off the sugar and producing harmful acid.
- Floss: Flossing is an important yet often overlooked part of a proper oral care routine. If you consume lots of sugar, you should absolutely floss every day to clean out any leftover sweets stuck between your teeth. Tooth plaque most often builds up in between teeth, so you want to make sure you’re cleaning all those hard-to-reach areas in your mouth.
- Chew gum: Chewing sugar-free gum after eating sugar helps clean your teeth. When you chew gum, extra saliva is produced that will help in washing away any sugar left over in your mouth. Just make sure to choose gum without sugar, otherwise, that would defeat the purpose!
While eating a lot of sugar has been found to lead to cavities, it isn’t the direct cause. However, your Grand Rapids dentist would agree that consuming too much sugar is detrimental to your overall oral health, so you’ll want to make sure to keep the sugar to a minimum. Talk to your dental specialist for further information about the dangers of too much sugar and what you can do to prevent cavities.
To learn more about our dental hygienists and the dental services we offer, please contact our Grand Rapids dentist office at (616) 364-8716. Our dental professionals strive to be the very best at providing patients with optimal oral care while making them feel right at home here in Grand Rapids, MI.