Sugar And Cavities: What's The Connection?

Most people have heard how bad sugary foods and snacks can be for their teeth, but is that really true? From childhood, many people are drawn to the taste of sweets, and even some adults consider their favorite treats to be those that contain loads of sugar. Those who are wary of exposing their smile to the damage that sugar is reputed to cause might be interested in information about how sugar affects your teeth and how to avoid problems if you and sugar are in a long-term relationship.

What Causes Cavities?

Dental cavities are openings in the usually solid exterior of the enamel that makes up the outer section of teeth. Any type of intrusion can create the perfect opportunity for bacteria to enter and set up shop inside the tooth. Bacteria causes decay that rots the tooth from the inside out. Tooth enamel is strong, but things like gum disease and cracks in the tooth can weaken it and make it vulnerable. The worst offender, however, is plaque, the bacteria that have transformed into the sticky substance that you have to brush and floss your teeth to get rid of. Why do cavities hurt? The decay gradually causes the degeneration of the tooth to the point that the nerves are exposed when you chew or even breathe in air.

Sugar and the Role it Plays in Cavities

Many people probably view sugar as a substance that comes into contact with a tooth and immediately begins to attack it. While there is no dispute that sugar can cause cavities, the way it does so is not as direct as that. To understand more about the process, you must realize that your mouth is step one of your digestive system—just smelling a tantalizing food can get your salivary glands producing. Saliva helps to begin the digestive process in the mouth by beginning the process of breaking down foods using special enzymes. Unfortunately, sugar, along with dairy, proteins, and just about everything else you eat, all produce the same effect on your teeth.

In other words, cavities are not caused just by sugar, but by eating nearly anything, because the digestive enzymes eat away at your teeth while you chew. As you can see, sugar is not the bad guy here. It has no more harmful effects on your teeth than any other food. The main takeaway is that efforts to remove any traces of food and old saliva are key to maintaining a healthy mouth. To avoid cavities, see your dentist for regular appointments and have your teeth professionally cleaned.