This time of year there are always delicious goodies to be eaten: at the office, your neighbor’s house, in your own house! We at your Springfield dental clinic understand how tempting these treats are, which is why we’re going to explain why not to eat them.
How does sugar hurt my teeth?
Great question. And it has an unexpected answer! Despite endless warnings from parents, dentists, and health organizations, it is not sugar itself that is the cavity-causing culprit. It’s the bacteria who live in your mouth, and they love to eat sugar. It’s their favorite food.
When bacteria eat sugar, they metabolize it into energy, just as we do, and they excrete what their bodies don’t need, just as we do. Unfortunately, in the case of bacteria, what they excrete is acid. This acid sits on your dental enamel, and eats away at it. Even though enamel is the hardest substance in the body, it wasn’t made to hold up to acid!
Additionally, the more sugar around, the more bacteria multiply, and then their children and their children’s children sit around eating sugar and metabolizing it into acid, which harms your dental enamel, and so on. And this is something that could happen between breakfast and lunch– bacterial generations are on a whole different time-spectrum than human generations!
Yikes! That sounds bad!
It is! But you know what’s worse? No? We’ll tell you.
Soda is sugary, which, as we noted, feeds bacteria. But in addition, it also contains its own acid– phosphoric acid! The combination of sugary bacteria food and acid can start harming enamel in less than a minute after drinking. And to make matters worse, most people like to “sip” their sodas– keeping their mouths bathed in acidic bacteria food.
Much in the same way that sipping soda harms your teeth, constantly snacking also keeps your mouth filled with sugar to feed bacteria on. Not only that, but around the holidays chances are your snack may be a sugar cookie or candy cane! Constant eating, and not brushing in between, stops your mouth from cleaning itself with saliva and recovering its pre-sugar equilibrium.
Holiday tips to avoid sugar
- Carry gum. It could save your smile as well as your social life. Sugar-free gum (like with a xylitol sweetener) stimulates salivary glands, cleans up excess sugars lying around, and may even remove that spinach wedged between your front teeth. Hand it out at the end of a meal, and be everyone’s hero.
- Bake sugar-free. Find some good recipes here for sugar-free baked goods which, while you still shouldn’t snack constantly on them, will provide holiday cheer.
- Drink water. Much like saliva, water rinses sugar from your mouth before it can feed bacteria. If you’re enjoying a glass of holiday wine, be sure to have a glass of water nearby to rinse between mouthfuls so you can avoid staining.