We all know that eating sugary foods adversely affects our teeth and can cause decay. We even teach our children about sugary foods and drinks in order to help their teeth stay healthy. But did you know that it’s not actually the sugar itself that causes the problem of decay, but rather, it’s what happens right after sugar enters your mouth?

portrait of a young woman smiling and eating ice cream

It can seem like an impossible task but cutting down on sugar will do wonders for your oral health.

Did you know that every single time you take a bite of something sugary, or a sip of a sugary drink, an acid attack occurs inside your mouth that lasts for approximately 20 minutes? Every single time you take a new sip, a new 20-minute cycle begins.

So, what actually happens inside the mouth?

Inside our mouths are hundreds of different types of bacteria. Some of the are largely helpful, whilst others lay in wait to feast on the sugars we consume.

Once you eat something containing sugar, certain bacteria living in your mouth will consume it, and create acid. This acid is actually what destroys and dissolves the outer protective layer of your teeth, the enamel. When you get a cavity, it’s a bacterial infection which is created by the acids, and this is what makes a hole in your tooth.

What’s the big deal about cavities?

When you get a cavity, you are opening up the inside of your tooth the outside world and the ecosystem of your mouth. Without treatment, the cavity can go deeper within the layers of your tooth and cause damage, sensitivity, and pain, resulting in potential tooth loss.

Preventing decay and tooth loss

The higher the sugar content of your food, the more you’re feeding the bacteria in your mouth and producing acids. Therefore, consuming foods and drinks low in sugar is important to the health of your teeth. Here are some other ways to fight the effects of sugar on your teeth:

  • Avoid sugary drinks, but if you must, consume through a straw to avoid swashing over your teeth.
  • Drink water after consuming sugary foods and drinks to dilute the sugar.
  • Avoid long-term exposure to sugary drinks, if you’re drinking them, do it fast rather than slowly.
  • Use a fluoride toothpaste to protect your teeth.
  • Wait an hour after consuming sugar to brush your teeth as they will be vulnerable after acid attack.
  • Don’t eat or drink sugary products before bed to avoid this pooling in your mouth overnight.
  • Get your teeth checked by a dental professional regularly for signs of decay and erosion.

The Australian Dental Association suggests we drink in moderation soft drinks and sports energy drinks, slow down on juices, and that milk and water are the safest to consume. They also mention that soft drinks, in particular, are a hazard due to their acidic structure. The acid in soft drinks, and even in ‘sugar-free’ soft drinks, weakens the enamel on teeth to cause decay.

It’s important to have a dental professional check over your teeth regularly to prevent dental problems from forming. Browse through our blog for more information or call (03) 9041 5301 today to find out how we can help.