Abacus Dental Care, 52 Lennon Drive, Milton Keynes, MK8 0AS

Sugar can be hard to resist, especially this time of year! Whether it’s your Grandma’s special Christmas cookies or advent calendar chocolates, we’re surrounded by tempting treats from November through to New Year’s. We know sugar isn’t “good” for us, but exactly how does it affect your dental health?

Sugar Changes Your Mouth Acidity

As children, we learn that sugar causes cavities, but the real culprit is acid. Our saliva is naturally acidic, which, when combined with regular tooth brushing, maintains a low PH level that creates a healthy environment for teeth and gums. When sugar is consumed, it mixes with the natural bacteria in saliva and creates acid, which drives up the PH level to cause a more acidic environment in the mouth. These acid levels can remain elevated for twenty minutes or more and during this time acid begins to eat into tooth enamel, creating cavities.

Sugar Leads to Bacterial Growth

In addition to destroying tooth enamel, the acids that result from sugar consumption also create an ideal environment for bacteria that can lead to gingivitis, gum disease, and receding gums. This occurs when bacteria infect little pockets between the gums and the teeth, causing the gums to pull away and loosen the teeth. In advanced cases, the infection can start breaking down the bone underneath the teeth, causing the teeth to fall out.

Even if you don’t consider yourself to have a “sweet tooth,” it’s difficult to avoid sugar altogether, as it’s added to almost everything. Beyond adding flavour, sugar gives food texture and colour, balances the acidity of foods containing vinegar and tomatoes, serves as a bulking agent in baked goods and ice cream, and helps preserve foods like jams and jellies. Sugar also fuels fermentation, which is why it’s found in breads and kombucha. Depending on the form used, sugar affects your oral health differently.

Dental decay advice Milton Keynes dentist

Effects of Solid Sugars

Sugar comes in many forms, and one of the most common is white processed sugar (i.e., solid sugar crystals) found in food, gum, and candy. These non-liquid sugars are harmful because they leave a large amount of sticky residue on our teeth that is too strong for saliva to wash away. The adverse effects are made worse by the highly concentrated and processed nature of the ingredients found in popular processed foods.

Effects of Liquid Sugars

Perhaps the most popular and harmful form of sugar is corn syrup. This liquid form of sugar is prevalent in most sodas and sugar-sweetened drinks (including energy drinks). Drinking this form of sugar is essentially like swishing with a toxic mouthwash. Liquid sugar gets into every nook and crevice in the mouth, covering teeth and into gum tissue. As the resulting sticky film sits in your mouth, bacteria begin to breed and the formed acid slowly disintegrates tooth enamel. The same film coats your gums, when bacteria grows here, it can lead to gingivitis and cause bad breath also known as halitosis.

As dental experts, we recommend that you avoid sugary drinks and foods whenever possible, but we know that’s not realistic – or desirable – all of the time (especially during the Christmas period). The best way to have your cake and eat it too (without causing cavities) is to brush your teeth as soon as possible after eating or drinking, especially when those foods or beverages are sweetened with sugar, corn syrup, or other forms of sugar. If brushing isn’t possible, rinse your mouth with water after indulging and try to keep your sugary foods to meal times as the frequency of sugar exposure is much more harmful than the quantity.

Of course, brushing and flossing every day and visiting your dentist at least twice a year is the best way to keep your smile healthy. Contact us here at Abacus Dental Care to schedule your next dental examination and hygiene appointment today by booking online or call us on 01908 260757 to speak to our team.

Dr Sukal Verma

BDS, MJDF RCS (Eng), PG Dip (Implant Dentistry)

If you would like to know more about maintaining your dental health please call Abacus Dental Care on 01908 260757 to arrange your dental appointment with one of our Milton Keynes dentists.

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