There’s nothing quite as delightful as a sweet treat. Whether you enjoy a cold cup of juice, a butterscotch candy, or a chocolate chip cookie, nearly everyone has a go-to treat. And there’s a good reason for this: Human bodies are programmed to love sugar. The human brain loves sugar since sugar is a great source of fuel. Your brain gets a dopamine hit from the sugar, reinforcing our craving for it.
There’s no denying that sugar has its place. It’s why marathon runners eat pure glucose gel mid-run, but too much sugar has dire health consequences. It can increase your risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and tooth decay.
Here at the Supertooth Dental Group, our team providers know that sugar is oh-so-tasty, but oh-so-disastrous for your oral health.
Here are three ways sugar impacts your teeth.
1. Sugar attracts bacteria
Not all bacteria feed off sugar, but two of the destructive bacteria that live in your mouth 一 Streptococcus mutans and Streptococcus sobrinus 一 do eat sugar. When sugar accumulates in your mouth and isn’t washed away, it attracts bacteria. As the bacteria eat the sugar, they form plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that coats your teeth.
2. Sugar and plaque lower the pH level in your mouth
As more and more plaque builds up in your mouth, it changes the pH level in your mouth. A neutral pH level is 7, and normally, the pH level in your mouth is between 6.2 and 6.7, but plaque can make it drop lower. If your pH level drops below this range, your mouth becomes acidic. This is problematic because the acidity can start to erode the minerals in your teeth.
3. Sugar increases your risk of tooth decay
Excess sugar attracts more bacteria, which leads to more plaque. Plaque can lower the pH level in your mouth and increase your risk of developing dental caries. Dental caries, also known as cavities, form when the small areas of erosion expand. These areas keep growing until a hole 一 or cavity 一 forms in your tooth.
Left untreated, cavities can spiral into bigger problems. One untreated cavity can increase your risk of infections, cracks, and tooth abscesses.
Sneaky sources of sugar
Though excess sugar can impact your oral health, it doesn’t mean you need to forgo sugar forever. It’s important to consume sugar in moderation, and if you do indulge, be sure to brush your teeth shortly afterward.
It’s also important to identify sneaky sources of sugar, so you can assess your sugar intake. One of the biggest sources of sugar is actually beverages. Sodas, sweetened coffee drinks, and sweet tea make it easy to drink dozens of grams of sugar without even realizing it. Keep these tips in mind to reduce sugar consumption:
- Drink ーdon’t slowly sip ー your sweet drinks (the prolonged exposure when sipping can increase your risk of cavities).
- Swap sugar-free gum for regular gum.
- Avoid sucking on hard candy (look for sugar-free versions instead).
- Eat a well-balanced diet.
- Offer water rather than juice to children.
- Don’t let your baby fall asleep with milk or juice in a bottle (as the liquid sitting on the teeth can expose your child’s teeth to more sugar).
- If you do offer juice, dilute it to reduce the sugar content.
In addition to monitoring your sugar intake, prioritize at-home oral hygiene. Brush your teeth twice a day and especially after indulging in sweets. Floss daily, use mouthwash, and schedule regular dental cleanings.
Our team is more than happy to help address sugar intake for our littlest patients, too. We follow all recommendations from the American Dental Association on sugary beverages for children and adults.
If you’re concerned that you (or someone in your family) is exhibiting signs of tooth decay, call the location of your choice 一 Bethesda, Gaithersburg, or Germantown, Maryland, to schedule your appointment.