17 Jun 2016 Myth #3: Eating Too Much Sugar Causes Tooth Decay
Most people would probably tell you right away that sugar and tooth decay are related directly, and that sugar is horrible for your teeth. While eating too much sugar and tooth decay certainly have been linked, it is a myth that sugar itself is actually bad for teeth.
The surprising truth of the matter is that sugar is only the first step in the decay of tooth structure. However, the substance itself does virtually no damage to teeth.
Why The Myth?
If sugar is so harmless to teeth, then you might ask why the link between sugar and teeth integrity is so strong. The reason is due to the presence of bacteria within the mouth that also feed on the sugars as they are chewed and prepared for digestion. These bacteria consume the sugar and create an acid as a byproduct, and that acid is what causes the damage to enamel and dentin in your teeth. Of course, the process does take some time, and those who are diligent about brushing their teeth after eating sugar may be able to counteract the majority of the ill effects.
How The Damage Gets Done
Cavities are the worst possible outcome of tooth decay caused by eating excessive sugar. A cavity is a small hole in the enamel of a tooth that grows into the deeper layers underneath the shiny exterior. If the cavity goes deep enough, it can cause nerve damage and the potential loss of the tooth. Cavities initially form as small indentations in the enamel caused by acid from bacteria. If left unchecked, these holes grow deeper as more acid collects in them. It is possible to remineralize certain areas, but in order to do so a patient must adopt a diet that either reduces sugar intake or works around the consumption of sugar with regular cleaning.
A Careful Balancing Act
There is a constant battle happening in your mouth between the bacteria-producing acid and your ability to remove it. That is one of the main reasons brushing and flossing are so important. The presence of any sugars left over from consuming a sweet treat aren’t a true problem until they are converted to acid, so the real reason for brushing isn’t to remove the sugar, but to remove the acid and the bacteria that create it. So while sugar and teeth might not be directly connected in their interactions, they are still related on a fundamental level. It would actually be healthier for your teeth to consume a large amount of sugar at once, as opposed to a small amount on a regular basis throughout the day. The constant presence of even just a bit of sugar can allow the bacteria to produce damaging acid, but eating a large amount at once limits the amount of exposure the bacteria have to the sugar.
There are numerous reasons why cutting back on sugar is ideal for optimal health, and even though teeth aren’t directly damaged by the presence of sugar, it does create an environment where teeth can easily become damaged. Constant vigilance is the best way to maintain proper teeth cleanliness and health.