We often warn children that eating a lot of sugary foods like chocolates and pastries would decay their teeth. In reality, it isn’t just children who should be worried about getting their teeth decayed, but everyone in general. Such is the effect of sugar on the teeth and our oral health as a whole.
Our mouths are home to thousands of harmful bacteria. They multiply continuously throughout the day and feed on the food residues left in the mouth. While doing so, they release lots of acidic substances that could erode the enamel and cause demineralization. Over time, they form cavities by decaying the tissues of the teeth. If they aren’t treated early, these cavities can grow deeper and wider, thus putting the teeth at the risk of needing to be extracted.
Eating sugar itself is not the culprit, but its after-effects are. When you eat anything containing sugar, the molecules from the food combine with the saliva and oral bacteria and get deposited on the teeth as a thin, transparent film. This film is called plaque. In some instances, plaque can be deposited as a yellowish or brownish layer on the teeth, which makes them look dull.
The sugar acts as food for the bacteria, which feed on them and release harmful toxins. These toxins are the major cause of cavities, as they erode the enamel and decay the underlying dentin — which is a softer tissue compared to the enamel. This process is called demineralization and is especially alarming in the case of children who eat chocolates and other sweets more often than adults do. Also, they may fail to gargle their mouth with water after eating, leaving a lot of sugary residues on the teeth.
The reversal of demineralization is a process called remineralization, where the teeth are allowed to get back the essential minerals they lost to the effect of the bacteria. As a start, we could cut down on the consumption of sugar, or at least avoid frequent snacking. One change you can do is replace regular chewing gum with sugar-free gum. This not only reduces sugar consumption but also promotes the production of saliva in the mouth. Also, consuming more dairy food helps you get the required calcium and phosphates, minerals that strengthen the teeth.
Fluoride is an essential mineral that increases the teeth’ immunity against cavities by naturally remineralizing the enamel. Although fluoride is provided to the body through drinking water and using toothpaste, it may sometimes be inadequate. In this case, we could provide a fluoride treatment, applying a topical fluoride gel on the teeth, and letting the minerals adhere to the enamel.
To know more about the best means of protecting your teeth and maintaining optimum oral hygiene, please reach out to the dental office of Dr.Angela An, D.D.S at (650) 342-8618, and we’ll be happy to help.