Children have been through a saying throughout their childhood: “Eating sweets will rot your teeth”. While a high sugar diet certainly aggravates the formation of cavities, sugar itself isn’t the real culprit behind tooth decay.
Basically, it’s not the sugar that damages your teeth, rather than the bacteria living in your mouth. Your mouth is full of bacteria, most of them are beneficial, but some are harmful. The harmful bacteria feeds on the carbohydrates you consume and create acids, which combine with saliva to form a nasty stuff called plaque.
It’s this plaque, not sugar, which leads to tooth decay. Plaque starts building up after every meal and erodes the hard, outer enamel of a tooth. This results in the formation of tiny holes in the tooth’s surface. These holes mark the first stage of cavity formation.
Sugars react with acid-producing bacteria, Streptococci mutans, present in the plaque. The acid produced begins to demineralize the calcium-rich surface of the teeth until cavities form. Once cavitation reaches a certain point, the mouth’s natural remineralization process, which is regulated by saliva, is not able to repair the damage, leading to a permanent weakening of the tooth structure.
Fortunately, while the acids are frequently attacking your teeth, your mouth is continually reversing the damage. While demineralization is a process where acids are leeching the minerals from your tooth enamel, remineralization restores and strengthens your teeth once again. Your saliva plays a crucial role during this process. It contains essential minerals like phosphates and calcium, which are influential in repairing your teeth.
If tooth decay is not timely managed, it can form cavities that can expose the soft pulp inside the tooth, which may eventually become infected. Children are usually more vulnerable to tooth decay than adults, as their teeth are still developing and the enamel is softer and easier to be damaged.
Irrespective of how healthy your diet is, you should also follow good oral hygiene to help reduce bacteria and plaque in your mouth. Some of the tips are:
- brushing your teeth twice a day, preferably using fluoride toothpaste
- flossing once a day to remove food and bacteria in between your teeth
- drinking water throughout the day, preferably fluoridated tap water
- not smoking or drinking excessive alcohol
Still have questions about your oral health or hygiene? If it has been a long time since you’ve visited your dentist, contact us for a dental check-up or a hygiene appointment.