What Sugar Does to Your Teeth
We know sugar as the tasty substance that makes our food sweet. Great in ice cream, cakes, and pretty much every other dessert you can think of. Unfortunately, sugar is also the criminal responsible for most of our cavities and tooth decay. Keep in mind that sugar comes in many forms and just because it doesn’t come in a pre-packaged bag doesn’t mean it can’t hurt your teeth. Juice, children’s crackers, sugary gum, soda. All of these things can harm your teeth as well as your child’s.
Remember to come in for a dental check-up every 6-12 months as an adult. As for your child, they should be brought in for their first dental visit as soon as their first tooth comes in. That way, your pediatric dentist can catch anything concerning before it becomes a major issue and requires surgical intervention. Pediatric dentists will also often recommend sealants for your child – ie, a simple procedure that coates the top of your teeth with a liquid that hardens and seals up the small crevices that are so hard to brush. This can often be a very effective preventative measure for cavities. So make sure not to skip out on your dentist visits, or else you might miss out on helpful things like this that can make a huge difference for your child’s long-term oral health.
Why Is Sugar Bad For Your Teeth?
It’s important to establish that sugar itself does not cause instant tooth decay upon contact with your teeth. It’s more so the cycle that it sets off.
Our mouth is populated with bacteria that hang out and look for sugar to feed on. So when we eat a piece of candy or a banana, the sugar sticks to our teeth and bacteria start feasting on it. When bacteria consumes sugar, they release acid that wears down your teeth’ enamel. In the meantime, the bacteria thrives and continues it’s work. The longer sugar hangs out in your mouth, the more time bacteria has to munch and release it’s harmful acid. That’s exactly why dentists recommend that you should brush as soon as you eat, rather than letting the food particles hang out in your mouth all day. Likewise, this is the same reason why kids who snack all day in school are particularly prone to cavities.
Your body is constantly working to reverse the damage done to your teeth by rebuilding minerals and that important layer of protective enamel. Having said that, if you snack all day, letting the bacteria hang out for 8 hours at a time, it’s hard for your enamel to keep up. The result? Cavities! Once the enamel is eroded from a part of your tooth, decay starts to set in, and a small hole forms. This is usually about when your dentist recommends a filling to repair the damage.
In extreme cases, a large cavity can deteriorate to the point that a crown or tooth extraction procedure may be necessary to fix the damage. These types of procedures are typically a lot pricier than a simple filling. That’s why it is always best to catch tooth decay as early on as possible.
Why Do My Teeth Hurt When Eating Sweets?
If you or your child are experiencing sensitivity when eating sweets, this means you need to take a trip to the dentist. Tooth pain from eating sugar can be from a number of reasons:
- Loss of enamel: When the outer layer of your teeth, the enamel, is damaged or starting to erode sugar, hot, and cold liquids can cause pain.
- Cavities: Eating sugar can cause existing and forming cavities in your mouth to ache. Having the cavity filled will prevent this type of pain.
- Tooth damage: If your teeth have been damaged from an accident or from grinding, the lost enamel can cause pain when eating sugary foods.
- Tooth Whitening: While temporary, whitening your teeth can make them sensitive to sugar.
- Gum Disease: If your gums aren’t healthy, your teeth won’t be either. Gingivitis and periodontitis can create sensitivities to sugary foods.
- Dentin Hypersensitivity: This is a dental condition that makes teeth sensitive. Certain tastes, like sugar, can create a sharp pain or extreme discomfort while eating.
Kids And Sugar
Sugar is bad for anyone, we’ve already established that. But it’s important for parents to understand that sugar is especially bad for children. We know that this is a difficult thing to deal with since kids are typically the ones that love sweets the most. However, please keep in mind these three things when it comes to your child:
- Children often don’t brush their teeth very well. Yes, we already knew that to some extent, but did you know that the Royal’s Children’s Hospital in Melbourne has found that a whopping 33% of children aren’t brushing their teeth often enough? So keep in mind that if your child eats twice as many sweets as you, and brushes their teeth half as well, the result is a recipe for cavities. Your child may be at double the risk of incurring cavities simply because of their daily habits.
- Children’s teeth may be less well-protected against bacteria. It’s important to note that baby teeth have much thinner enamel than adult teeth. Furthermore, kids that are old enough to be standing and brushing their teeth may have insufficient fluoride and not even realize it. These are all factors that can increase your child’s risk for cavities.
- It’s hard to catch oral health issues early on. The inherent problem with asking a 6 year old how their teeth feel is that they often don’t really know. According to the NIDCR, about 23% of children (ages 2 to 11), have untreated cavities. That’s partially because, at that age, kids don’t know what their teeth should look or feel like yet. This makes it all the more important to frequently bring your kids in for dental visits. A pediatric dentist is likely to catch tooth decay well before you do.
How To Prevent Sugar From Damaging Your Teeth
The most obvious thing that we’ve already talked about is brushing your teeth regularly. However, we do want to emphasize that it’s also best to eat in bursts of time and brush your teeth right away after. Every hour that you have food particles on your teeth is another hour that bacteria is feeding off the sugar and producing acid. Also, keep in mind that it’s not just sugar that has this effect, but any snacky foods that may contain sugar as well. In other words, that 100% fruit juice that you’ve been giving your kids because the vitamins are healthy? Not so healthy. Opt for a sugar-free drink like water instead.
Aside from that, it’s also a good idea to add flossing to your regular oral hygiene routine. Flossing helps get rid of food and sugar particles in between teeth, therefore protecting them from cavities.
Your doctor might also recommend a specific brand of floss or toothpaste. These days, there are plenty of options. Whether you’re a kid that doesn’t like the taste of mint, or a parent that needs something a little softer on your gums, there’s something for you in the oral health aisle. Make sure to check the bottom and top shelves for specialty toothpastes that are a better fit for your dental concerns.
As for your toothbrush, electric brushes have become immensely popular for a good reason. They’re faster and more effective than manually brushing your teeth – so they can pick up a lot more of the plaque and food residue in the cracks of your teeth. Ask your dentist for a recommendation if you’re not sure which one to buy.
Keeping an eye on your fluoride might also be a good idea. Tap water and toothpaste are our two biggest sources of fluoride, a substance that protects our teeth from erosion. So if you happen to be someone that only drinks bottled water or uses fluoride-free toothpaste, it’s good to keep an eye on your teeth’ fluoride.
Also please note that in regards to children, pediatric dentists always recommend that until age 8, kids should always be brushing with the help of an adult. This ensures that your child is learning how to brush the correct way from an early age.
Looking for a Pediatric Dentist in Tennessee?
Here at Snodgrass-King Dental, we value your and your child’s health above all else. We scrub our equipment and patient areas top to bottom to ensure that our clients have as little contact with COVID-19 as possible. In the meantime, we’re following CDC guidelines, so hands are constantly being scrubbed in the sink to wash all those germs away.
We currently offer services across 5 different office locations throughout Middle Tennessee (Mt. Juliet, Murfreesboro, Franklin, and Cool Springs). Moreover, we’ve got something for the whole family here at Snodgrass-King Dental. From pediatric to family dentistry, we’ve got you covered. We even do braces! Give us a call or go online to set up an appointment, we know you’ll just love your new dentist.
In fact, we’re so confident that we offer a bunch of awesome deals for new patients. Visit our website or call to ask about our current specials. But don’t wait too long – our $400 off Braces/Invisalign special ends 09/30/2021, and our other new patient specials are constantly changing.