The Effect of Food on Your Teeth
Candy and other types of sugary foods are, as everybody knows, delicious. However, it is commonly known that these types of foods are damaging to your teeth. But sugar itself is not the culprit for tooth decay. Rather, it’s the events that occur afterward that are to blame. The reason for this is due to bacteria that reside in your mouth.
How sugary foods cause decay
Our mouths contain lots of bacteria. Many of these being harmful to our teeth. When we consume sugary foods, the sugar remains on our teeth. The bacteria in our mouths utilize this sugar to produce acids. When these acids are not removed via brushing and flossing, they cause problems. For example, the minerals present in tooth enamel are removed by these acids in a process called demineralization. This process is reversed when we brush our teeth with toothpaste containing fluoride. However, the cycle repeats once more when we eat again. This repeated cycle weakens the enamel over time until a cavity eventually forms.
Sugars are not only produced from food like candy. They also come from foods containing carbohydrates such as bread, crackers, and potato chips. If left untreated, the bacterial infection of the tooth can go deeper and create a larger hole until eventually a filling, crown, root canal, or even extraction is necessary. This is why it is important to always keep good oral hygiene habits.
How to remineralize tooth enamel
As was mentioned earlier, bacterial acids demineralize your enamel. In order to reverse this, it is best to cut down on sugar consumption, especially from candy and soda. Saliva also plays a significant role in helping to wash away plaque and remineralize your enamel. It contains minerals such as calcium and phosphate that work in tandem with fluoride from your toothpaste to help reverse damage to the enamel. Chewing sugarless gum and eating high fiber veggies and fruits will help stimulate saliva. Dairy is also good to consume as it contains calcium and phosphates to strengthen enamel. The American Dental Association (ADA) also recommends brushing your teeth twice a day for two minutes, using an ADA approved toothpaste that contains fluoride. Lastly, the ADA also recommends professional, topical fluoride treatments when you visit the dentist for regular cleanings.
Sugar’s effect on your mouth’s pH
Streptococcus mutans and Streptococcus sorbrinus are the two types of bad bacteria found in your mouth. These are the bacteria that feed on sugar and form dental plaque on and inbetween your teeth. Plaque is a sticky biofilm on the surface of your teeth that harbors lots of decay causing bacteria. Plaque left in the mouth creates more acid, leading to a lower pH of the mouth. 7 is a neutral pH, with anything less than that being considered an acidic pH. When the pH of plaque drops below 5.5 due to acids being produced, the acidic conditions produced in the mouth lead to the breakdown of enamel. Over time, a hole or cavity will form in your tooth.
The ADA recommends waiting to brush your teeth for at least 60 minutes after eating. This allows enough time for your saliva to natural wash away food particles so the pH of your mouth can return to normal levels. After eating, the enamel is in a weakened and vulnerable condition. Brushing immediately will actually end up brushing away enamel due to exposure to acids. What you should do instead is either drink or rinse with water or use mouthwash.
It is important to take good care of our teeth. This means not consuming sugary foods too often and maintaining good oral hygiene. Doing so will keep your smile healthy for as long as possible.