Is sugar really bad for your teeth?

The answer is yes, definitely. But a lot of people don’t know why sugar is bad, and what it actually does.

It’s pretty common for a child to have a sweet tooth. Sugary things taste great, and children usually don’t have a sense of long term reward over their short term pleasure. They generally don’t understand how sugar affects their teeth, so they eat their way to cavities and dental problems. In fact, forty-two percent of American children between the ages of two and eleven have some form tooth decay.

How does sugar cause cavities?

The sugar itself is not the issue, what causes damage to your teeth is acid. This acid is a jelly-like substance and sticks to your teeth as it works to break them down. It occurs because various bacteria use the sugar in your mouth as a source of food and energy, and when that bacteria breaks down the sugar, the resulting product is this acid. The acid will then break through the enamel and remove the minerals from your teeth. This causes tooth decay, rot, cavities, demineralised teeth, toothaches, and sensitive teeth.

It’s best for children to avoid eating sugary foods, but it’s understandable that they want to have an occasional treat from time to time. If this is the case, here are some steps you can take to prevent damage to your children’s (and your own) teeth when they consume sugar:

  • Drink plenty of water
    Drinking fluoridated water helps wash away the bacteria that will harm your teeth. It will also keep your mouth moist and hydrated which is important as your saliva contains important minerals that can actually help repair damage to your teeth.
  • Consume treats over short periods of time
    The acid attacks that occur as a result of bacteria happen over a time of about twenty minutes. This is why it’s best to consume sugar over short periods of time rather than longer periods of time. This is simply to reduce the exposure time your teeth have with acid.
  • Drink soda with a straw
    It seems silly, but drinking with a straw is a good way to reduce the contact your teeth will have with sugar. It allows soda to go directly into the back of your mouth. And, you’re concerned about the environmental impact of disposable, there are plenty of eco-straws and reusable straws available.
  • Brush and floss
    Perhaps the most obvious solution is to clean your teeth often. At least twice a day is recommended, as well as flossing several times a week. If you consume something sugary or with high acidic value, wait forty-five minutes to an hour before brushing. This is because brushing your teeth in the midst of an acid attack can actually wear them away even more. You should wait for the acid to wear off before brushing.

A lot of parents will just let children eat sugary food like ice cream, soda, and lollies/candy because it’s easier than listening to them complain, or because it’s nice to give them a treat, and there’s nothing wrong with that! That being said, sugar intake needs to be controlled, and steps need to be taken to reduce the damage of sugary products consumed. Dental work can be painful, expensive, and often it can be avoidable by eating right and taking the right precautionary measures to protect your teeth. If you get your kids taking care of their teeth now, you’ll be setting them up with lifelong habits that will save them (and you) money and time in the future!

Corson Dental is a New Zealand dental practice specialising in general and cosmetic procedures. With high-tech offices and the latest in dental technology, Corson promises to deliver excellent patient care and help you achieve a healthy smile. Visit their website for more information.