“Don’t eat sweets or else your teeth will all rot out” is a phrase we have heard since childhood, or it could probably be something that you say to your kids now. Surprisingly, insights from a professional dentist also reveal that in reality, the damage that eating too much sugar can do to teeth should make everyone listen to that sage advice. Here are some interesting facts on how exactly sugar harms your teeth.
The Role Of Bacteria And Sugar
There are many different types of bacteria in our mouths. Some are beneficial to our dental health, whereas some are harmful. Studies have reported that there is a specific group of bacteria in our mouth that produce acid whenever they come in contact with and digest sugar.
The harmful aspect of these bacteria is that they remove minerals from the tooth enamel. Enamel is the shiny, protective, outer layer of the tooth. This whole process caused by bacteria coming in contact with sugar and removing the tooth’s enamel is called “demineralization”.
While sugar is present in many types of food and drinks – those containing a high amount of processed white sugar are particularly damaging because these foods leave a sticky residue on the teeth that is too strong for saliva to wash away.
The good news is that our saliva has certain minerals that help to constantly reverse this damage in a natural process called remineralization. The minerals in our teeth, calcium and phosphate, alongside the fluoride from toothpaste and water, helps the enamel repair itself by replacing the lost minerals during an acid attack.
While this remineralization process helps to strengthen the teeth, the more you consume sugar, the more repeated acid attacks your teeth will face, increasing the loss of minerals from the enamel. Over time this will weaken the remineralization process and gradually destroy the enamel, forming tooth decays and cavities.
Cavities And Periodontal Disease
This is basically a hole in the tooth caused by tooth decay. It’s the result of harmful bacteria digesting the sugar in foods and producing acidic components. When left untreated, the activity can spread into the deeper layers of the tooth causing pain and may even lead to tooth loss. Some common signs of tooth decay include toothache, pain when chewing and sensitivity to sweet, hot or cold foods and drinks.
Sometimes, the bacteria in the teeth may continue to thrive and spread to the gum line and irritate or infect the gums, leading to gum disease (periodontal disease).
Tooth Sensitivity And Discolored Teeth
Demineralization caused by sugar consumption can also lead to tooth sensitivity and discolored teeth. Enamel is what protects the hot and cold temperature from reaching the pulp of your teeth, where sensitive nerve tissues live. When this enamel wears out due to demineralization, the teeth can become more sensitive as there is a less protective coating. Similarly, the dentin of your teeth has a more yellow color than the tooth enamel. When enamel wears off, the teeth can appear more yellow and discolored.
Depending on the condition of your tooth, damages caused by excessive sugar consumption such as decay and cavities are treated through fillings or a root canal treatment. If it is excessively damaged a tooth extraction will be recommended to protect the other set of teeth. It’s also highly advisable to get your teeth and oral hygiene regularly checked at a professional dental clinic to prevent tooth decay from severing to other serious diseases.