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Effects of sugar on teeth

September 26, 2014

“A balanced diet is essential for good health” this is also applicable to your teeth. So when we see patients that have decayed teeth to the point of no return and we ask them how much sugary food and drink they take, it is obvious that they have given priority to sugar rather than other food groups. Let me go through the effects of sugar on teeth.

Our clever body has a mechanism which allows it to protect itself from harm. Our mouth has this too. Once sugar enters our mouth the bacteria present in our mouth quickly starts to turn that into acid. This is when demineralization takes place, when acid starts demolishing the minerals present in our tooth’s enamel. As a coping mechanism our mouth will produce saliva which helps to neutralize the acidity level in our mouth starting the process of remineralization. Our mouth takes roughly about 30 minutes to complete this process so imagine if a patient eats a small sugary snack 30-40 minutes after main meals, their mouth will struggle to achieve the point of remineralization and will keep dropping back into high levels of acidity. By doing this they are allowing acid and bacteria to attack their teeth leading to plaque and sensitivity. The graph below shows how the pH level (acidity level) shoots down to critical level every time a person eats.

Bad Stephan’s curve

badstefan2

So how could you avoid this from happening? You do not have to completely cut sugar out of your life, that would be just cruel. You could limit eating sugary food or drinks to meal time, at least this way your mouth will have time to recover after. The more sugary food you eat the longer the time your teeth are exposed to acid. Sipping sugary drinks such as tea and coffee are also very harmful to your teeth. Instead of sugary drinks you can snack on food with low content of sugar such as raw vegetables. Brush your teeth 30 minutes after eating to remove plaque from your tooth’s surface. A deposit of plaque builds up and releases more acid leading to dental caries.

Dental decay

Plaque

In order to maintain healthy teeth limiting your sugary intake to meal times and avoid snacking on sugary food in between meals. By doing this you are allowing your mouth to bring the acidity level in your mouth down and allowing your saliva to start the remineralisation process of those teeth that had been attacked by acid. Below is a good example of eating pattern which will aim you to maintain a healthier pH level in your mouth avoiding causing damage to your teeth.

Good Stephan’s curve

goodstefan2