Sugar & Its Effects on Your Teeth

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White Granules on Person Lips

It is not a secret that sugar is unhealthy in many ways for our bodies, but it’s awful for teeth. It can prove challenging to avoid sweets altogether. Deprivation often leads to overindulgence. 

But it is possible to maintain a sense of moderation for improvements in general well-being and the betterment of your oral health. So, what happens inside your mouth when you add a little sugar to it? Let’s check it out.

What Happens to The Various Parts of The Mouth When Sugar Is Introduced?

Sugar is a vice-like most others that people need to work hard to keep to a minimum to maintain a general sense of well-being of the body and for overall oral health. 

It can be deceitful because there are no warning labels or public service announcements as with most harmful substances like tobacco/nicotine or illicit drugs. While it might not classify with these substances, the effects can be detrimental, especially to our teeth. Find out about your sweet tooth and cavities at https://blog.uvahealth.com/2019/12/16/sweet-tooth-causes-cavities/. When you introduce sugar consistently into your mouth, some of the results you will see include:

  • Tooth Decay: When you indulge in sugar that stays behind on the surface of your teeth, the bacteria produced in your mouth eat away at the enamel since they feed on this sugar. The greater the amount of the sweet stuff, the more likely it is for tooth decay.

Enamel is not something that you can bring back once it is “eaten away.” The material is a composition of minerals that do have the potential for “remineralization” if it is merely weakened by consuming calcium-rich foods or using fluoride treatment. It is best to avoid any acidic substances due to this stripping calcium.

  • Aching Teeth: If you eat too many sweets regularly, it can cause a tooth to ache. Sugary foods are also contributors to gum disease and cavities, resulting in toothaches as well.
  • Cavities: The level of bacteria in your mouth will increase based on the number of sugars you consume, which ultimately lead to decay. The more you eat, the greater the bacteria and the perfect atmosphere for cavity development.
  •  Disease: Gums can develop a bacterial infection, otherwise referred to as gum disease. Because sugary substances increase bacteria in the mouth, it can contribute to diseases like “periodontitis” and “gingivitis.”

A first step in preventing poor oral health is to pay attention to what you put in your mouth. For example, if you consume a lot of junk food, you might be putting yourself at risk. 

Teeth can become weak and develop decay due to vitamin deficiency, meaning you need to ensure you take part in a wholesome, balanced meal plan to help maintain enamel strength and keep sugar sensitivity at bay. These foods would include, of course, fiber-rich options, milk and yogurts, vegetables, and cheese.

Brushing After Indulging in Sweets

Suppose you consume sugars, especially when there is a special occasion or a holiday where it might be unavoidable (or just irresistible). In that case, it is essential to take extra care of your teeth after your cheat day, so you don’t develop cavities after having a good time. Go here for guidance on brushing your teeth.

Plaque loosens as each tooth is brushed, helping to decrease the additional build-up. It is also suggested toughening the gums by brushing these, so they become robust and less prone to disease or development of tooth decay.

Once sugar comes in contact with a tooth, the molecules connect to your saliva molecules that saturate the gums and teeth. When protein/carbohydrate molecules join the mix, the sugar becomes like glue, making it stick to the surface of each tooth. The combination of these molecules creates plaque.

The streptococcus or naturally occurring mouth bacteria reacts to this by producing lactic acid, which results in eating away at the enamel’s minerals, ultimately weakening the surface creating cavities and/or decay.

Brushing will not take away the plaque in its entirety even if you do so right after eating, but it can improve the situation. In removing some of the surface debris, the severity of the damage lessens. To be considered adequate, tooth brushing should occur for at least two minutes, at which point sugary particles and plaque material eradicate from the enamel and in the cracks of each tooth.

Brushing, though, is merely one component of oral hygiene. It should combine with adequate flossing and mouth rinse along with regular dental exams (at least every six months), including professional cleanings. 

If you’re on the go and consume a sugary treat with no toothbrush available, make sure to always carry floss with you. It’s portable enough, as is a dental pick. Something to remember, there are travel toothbrushes and toothpaste that fit nicely in purses and backpacks.

The Other Side of The Debate

We are going to play the other side of the fence with the great brushing debate. Some professionals do not agree that you should be brushing after eating specific foods like those high in sugars and high in acidic content. The argument is that doing so has the result of wearing the enamel away faster instead of brushing as recommended in the morning and before bed.

The suggestion is that brushing immediately after a sweet treat or something high in acid is unsuitable for your tooth surface. Foods that offer a low pH, including juices or citrus products, are the worst culprits, as are sugared items that tend to attach to teeth and stay there even once you’ve finished with the brushing process.

These types of products will soften the enamel considerably, wearing the material down when you immediately brush. It is better to use water to rinse the teeth to remove debris and particles, along with acid to preserve oral health. 

If you like to brush after eating, which some dentists do recommend and many people prefer, rinse with water after the meal and then wait approximately half an hour before you brush, so the saliva can neutralize the food you consumed.

Sugar Sensitivity

Some individuals develop pain in their teeth after having something sugary to eat. Usually, the sensitivity of this nature is a sign of something more troubling. Seeing a dentist who can help identify the underlying issue could keep it from progressing and teach you to avoid the problem in the future.

One surefire way to help with sugar sensitivity is to avoid eating these types of foods. Not only will you prevent the pain, but you will be less likely to develop cavities, decay, gum disease, or other forms of deterioration due to the unhealthy choice. 

It is also wise to avoid acidic options, which can destroy the enamel of each tooth. Instead, you want to preserve the surfaces for as long as you can, helping to reduce the chance of cavities and discoloration of your teeth.

Another issue that can create sensitivity is brushing your teeth too hard or using too tough bristles. These can wear away at the enamel, making super sensitivity to sugars as well as hot or cold substances. 

The suggestion is to use a soft bristles tool, an electric toothbrush with a small head also is a recommendation, with a gentle circular stroke for each tooth. You don’t want to press hard or maneuver the utensil in a back-and-forth motion across the surfaces.

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Final Thought

Most of us are unlikely to stop eating sweets altogether. However, as a general rule, society is taking a better stance on wellness due to societal changes like the pandemic. That means we curb our poor habits, take things less healthy for us in moderation, and indulge in things that are better for our general well-being and oral health.

With more literature making people aware that mouth health is directly linked to overall wellness, more individuals take oral hygiene and dental care much more seriously. Hopefully, that means indulging less in sugar and pondering should you brush teeth after eating sugar to avoid deterioration. Questions like these can be posed to your dentist when you see the professional every six months, as it will be a part of adequate dental care.

In an attempt to answer the question before you see the provider, the most reasonable answer I found was you should actually rinse your mouth with water following a meal or after consuming unhealthy foods or drinks like an acidic wine to rid the acid or sugars from the teeth and then wait approximately 30 minutes before your brush.

If you try to brush immediately after having something acidic or sugary, your enamel has become soft, and you will only be wearing it down by brushing it in this condition, creating more of a problem than a solution. 

Allow your saliva to neutralize the substances you consumed. That is what our saliva is for. So again, rinse away the particles with water and then brush after adequate time passes. That is proper hygiene. At least that is our stance. Of course, the ideal scenario would be to ask your dental professional and follow their guidelines because these are, after all, the experts.