PREMIER DENTAL N EWS L E T T E R
Why Are Sugary Treats so Bad for Your Teeth? SUGAR’S SECRETS
Well, folks, Halloween is just around the corner. We all want our children to have a good time this year, but, at the risk of sounding like a buzzkill, I want to highlight the dangers of sugar. The No. 1 culprit for tooth decay is sugar. While it’s disappointing that something so good can do so much harm, the mechanisms are pretty simple. Many different types of bacteria live in your mouth. Some are beneficial, and some are harmful. (For my fellow science nerds out there, two of the bad bacteria in your mouth are Streptococcus mutans and Streptococcus sobrinus.) Some harmful bacteria produce acid in your mouth when they digest sugar. This happens after eating, when the sugar sticks to your teeth in the form of a colorless film commonly called plaque. These acids then remove minerals from tooth enamel, creating a weak environment where a cavity can take hold. If plaque is not washed away by saliva or brushing, the environment in the mouth becomes more acidic, and cavities start to form. A cavity is a hole in the tooth. It slowly spreads into the tooth’s deeper layers. This can cause pain, and, depending on the size of the cavity, treatment may involve a filling or, more drastically, a root canal. When left completely untreated, the cavity will lead ultimately to tooth loss. The signs of tooth decay are toothache, pain when chewing, and sensitivity to sweet, hot, or cold foods and drinks. Keep in mind that if you do not eat many sweets but take several medications, you are at higher risk of cavities because the medication can dry out your mouth. Without saliva to wash away normal food, teeth become prone to cavities. In addition, what you eat matters a lot in controlling cavity formation. If you have an occasional sugary snack, it’s not the end of the world. We’re all human, and we need to enjoy our food. Personally, I like to indulge in chocolate, and among my favorite treats are these cream crackers I find at the Korean food store paired with a slice of cheese or peanut butter. They’re my guilty pleasures. But I know that I have to rinse my mouth out
after indulging to avoid dangerous plaque from wreaking havoc on my teeth.
High-sugar snacks, sweets, and drinks ingested frequently will result in tooth decay. It may be surprising to learn that foods like cookies, potato chips, pretzels, bagels, tortilla chips, and flavored crackers also do harm. Why? Because they are carbohydrates, which break down to sugar and stick to your teeth. So, how can you help prevent cavities? Well, obviously, cut down on sugar. And, when you do indulge, rinse your mouth out with plain water. Another way to prevent cavities is to eat sugary foods with your meals instead of in between them. They cause less harm when eaten with other foods, as the sugary plaque has a better chance of being wiped away. Opt for a balanced diet rich in whole grains, fresh fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. You can also chew sugar-free gum to increase your salivary flow. When it comes to your children, instill good sugar habits early! Don’t allow infants to sleep with bottles containing sweetened liquids, including fruit juices and milk. And, of course, stick to the dentists’mantra. Brush twice a day and floss once a day. Keep up with cleanings twice per year or more to thoroughly remove bacteria, and take care of cavities when they are small.
VISIT OUR OFFICE AT:
321 Farnsworth Avenue Bordentown, NJ 08505
OFFICE STAFF: PATIENT COORDINATORS MICHELE JOHANNA DENTAL
ASSISTANT CATHLEEN HYGIENIST CHARLENE PRACTICE MANAGER PETER
Now for the good news: Chocolate is okay! Why? It doesn’t linger on your teeth.
So, now that you’re armed with this sugar knowledge, don’t be afraid to indulge this holiday season and consume sugar responsibly. Have a safe and happy Halloween!
—Hema Gopal, DMD
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