Sugar and Your Teeth, What You Need to Know
Sugar and your teeth--do you really understand how the two interact? For decades, doctors and patients alike have pointed to sugar as the bad guy in tooth decay. While it is true that sugar contributes to dental cavities and other health issues such as obesity, it's just part of the decay process and only one of the ingredients in foods that can erode tooth enamel.
How teeth develop cavities
Dental cavities form when naturally-occurring bacteria in the mouth feed on and thrive in plaque build-up on the tooth surface and at the gum line. Plaque, which eventually turns to the hard tartar that the dental hygienist removes from the teeth, forms from the debris and film left on teeth after eating. While oral bacteria love the sugar in snacks such as candy, soda pop, and other "sweets," these micro-organisms enjoy the carbohydrates in grains, fruits and veggies, too--yes, "healthy snacks."
The tooth-eroding bacteria hang around in the mouth for 30 minutes after a meal or snack, and they secrete acids that decay enamel, and if left untreated, the softer dentin and pulp inside the tooth. Tooth decay can progress to the bone, resulting in abscess and tooth loss.
What to do about sugar and other food residues
The American Dental Association is adamant on these safeguards against tooth decay:
- Limit sugary snacks. This goes for children--and adults, too.
- Dessert is better than snacking in between meals. Dessert ends your meal, limits the amount of time the sugar is in the mouth and helps stop the acidic bacteria from feasting on sugars and starches.
- Brush with a fluoride toothpaste as soon as possible after eating. Floss daily.
- Watch the texture of desserts and candies. Sticky and soft is worse than foods with a firmer texture because saliva can wash less sticky foods away more quickly and easily.
- Consider sugar-free gum and candies to keep your sweet tooth healthy.
What to eat instead of sugar
Nutritionists recommend natural and whole foods rather than those which are highly processed. Select a wide range of foods from the traditional 5 groups. Include items such as:
- fruits and vegetables
- grains and cereals (pretzels, bagels and low-sugar cereals)
- cheese, milk, and low-fat yogurt
- meats such as chicken
- seeds and nuts
Modern Touch Dentistry
Jolanta Pajek DDS wants to encourage you in achieving and keeping the healthiest and brightest smile possible. At Modern Touch Dentistry in Appleton, Wisconsin, Dr. Pajek and her staff will be happy to discuss nutritional choices that are good for your teeth. They offer a wide range of preventative, cosmetic and restorative dental services for the whole family. Call the Fox Cities area office today for an appointment: 920-993-8682.