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Is Sugar Really Dangerous for the Teeth? Or is it Just a Myth?

July 10, 2021

Ah, sugar. So much sweetness and so very bad for our teeth. Or is it? We’re often told that sugar is one of the worst things we can put in our mouths when it comes to keeping our teeth healthy, but is sugar really dangerous for teeth, or is it just a myth?

We’ve all heard that sugar will rot your teeth, and here at Carrie Muzny DDS, we’ve seen firsthand just how too much sugar can lead to tooth decay, painful dental problems, and a problematic smile. 

Here’s what you need to know about how sugar is bad for your teeth and what you can do to limit its damage.

Does Sugar Rot Your Teeth?

Sugar doesn’t damage your teeth on its own. It doesn’t ‘rot’ your teeth or cause cavities all by itself, but it does trigger the process that leads to decay and dental problems. 

Your mouth is filled with bacteria, some good and some bad, that are constantly fighting for supremacy inside your mouth. Some of these harmful bacteria are triggered to release acids when they come into contact with sugar. These acids can damage the enamel on the surface of your teeth, leading to the formation of small holes called cavities.

Sugar and Plaque

Another way that sugar damages your teeth is through the production of plaque. Some of the bacteria living inside your mouth feed on sugar and then produce a sticky substance called plaque. 

If plaque isn’t removed from your teeth, it hardens into something called tartar, which is much more difficult to remove. Tartar often has to be scraped from the teeth to remove it because if plaque and tartar build-up, they can lead to cavities, gingivitis, and even tooth- and bone-loss.

Sugar and pH Levels in Your Mouth

The ‘good’ bacteria in your mouth are constantly working to remineralize your teeth, repairing minor damage daily. But those pesky bad bacteria are always working, too, and they thrive in an acidic environment.

Eating sugar can cause the pH levels inside your mouth to drop, boosting the levels of those ‘bad’ bacteria. If they cause more damage than the good bacteria can repair, you’ll end up with dental problems that need to be treated by a dentist.

Is Sugar Really Dangerous for the Teeth?

When it comes to tooth decay, sugar is sugar. Even sugars that occur naturally in fruits can lead to tooth decay if you consume too much of them. 

You may think that sipping a glass of fruit juice instead of a sugary soda is better for your teeth, but the truth is that the sugars in fruit juice behave the same way sugars in soda do. 

While artificial sweeteners such as xylitol can be better for your teeth than sugar, the foods and drinks that the sweeteners are in can still be problematic. For example, even diet sodas can cause tooth decay because they are highly acidic. 

Should you replace sugary candies with sugar-free versions? Maybe. Sugar-free hard candies don’t impact your mouth’s pH, and they do increase saliva production (which can help protect teeth from decay). But they often contain many other harsh ingredients that may not be good for your health, so consume these in moderation.

Should You Give Up Sugar for Better Oral Health?

For many people, sugary foods and treats are just too good to give up. And since there are added sugars hiding in many of the foods we eat, it can be impossible to avoid sugar altogether. 

For better oral health, moderation is key. Aim to eat less sugary foods and more naturally crunchy foods, like carrots and apples, to help remove plaque from your teeth before it can harden.

Ditch sugary drinks and opt for water instead. It’s better for your teeth and your overall health, and it can help rinse away any sugars that might be lingering inside your mouth after you eat sweets.

How to Stop Sugar From Damaging Your Teeth

The best way to limit sugar’s effects on your teeth is to simply consume less of it. You should also aim to brush and floss at least twice a day. Rinsing your mouth out after eating and brushing can also help remove any sugary debris that could stick around and lead to tooth decay.

If you notice that your teeth hurt when you eat sweets, schedule a visit with your dentist. Pain when eating sugary foods is a sign that cavities could be present, and you’ll want to deal with them as soon as possible to prevent further damage.

Visit Us to Keep Your Sweet Tooth Healthy

At Carrie Muzny D.D.S., we are here to take care of your oral health. We want you to find the right dentist. We offer a range of preventative, restorative, and cosmetic dentistry services. 
From cleanings to fillings, to whitening and veneers, we provide everything you need to get the smile you deserve. We cover several insurance providers, provide a variety of services, and have experience in many areas of dentistry. Contact us today for a consultation, and let’s show the world your brilliant smile.

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