Why Sugar is Bad for Your Teeth: Effects of Sugar on Dental Health

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effects of sugar on teeth

We’ve all heard that sugar is bad for our teeth—that we’ll get rotten teeth from candy. But do you know exactly why? Here’s a closer look into the effects of sugar on teeth and how you can prevent tooth decay.

Why is Sugar Bad for Your Teeth?

Sugar itself doesn’t damage teeth. It’s the chain of events that take place after eating something sugary that can lead to tooth decay. 

So what does sugar do to your teeth exactly? How does sugar cause cavities?

Here’s what happens: When sugars aren’t cleaned off your teeth, certain oral bacteria feed on them, producing acid in your mouth. These acids wear away tooth enamel—the tooth’s hard outer surface—in a process called demineralization.

Luckily, saliva can help reverse this damage. The minerals in saliva, such as calcium and phosphate, can help remineralize your teeth. Fluoride from toothpaste and drinking water can also help repair enamel.

However, with repeated acid attacks, tooth enamel is weakened and destroyed, forming cavities. 

Tiny openings in enamel are the first stage of cavities. As acids continues to attack, decay spreads to the next layer of the tooth, called dentin. Eventually, decay can reach the pulp—the center of the tooth. At this point, a root canal may be necessary to repair and save the tooth.

How Can You Prevent Tooth Decay? 

There are several simple habits that can help prevent tooth decay. First, limit your sugar intake. In addition, avoid poor eating and drinking habits—like frequent snacking and sipping sugary drinks—which can lead to tooth decay and cavities. And be cautious of foods that cling to your teeth for a long time, or tend to get trapped between teeth, like candy, cake, dried fruit, honey, chips, and soft breads—these are more likely to cause decay as well. 

At the same time, try adding more mouth healthy foods into your diet. Chewing sugarless gum and eating high-fiber fruits and veggies can help increase saliva flow, bathing your teeth in strengthening minerals. Plus, dairy products like cheese, milk, and yogurt contain calcium and phosphate, which can aid in the remineralization of teeth.

Last, but certainly not least, practicing good dental hygiene is key. For a healthy mouth, brush twice daily for two minutes with fluoride toothpaste, floss daily, and don’t forget to come in for regular dental checkups and preventive cleanings at Cottonwood Dental.

Practicing these healthy habits consistently is the key to maintaining strong, cavity-free teeth. With a good oral hygiene routine, a healthy diet, and regular dental visits, you can help prevent the negative effects of sugar on teeth—and keep your smile healthy and beautiful for life.

About The Author

Dr. David Giaquinto, DDS

Dentist at Cottonwood Dental

Dentistry is a profession that requires many layers of knowledge and training. My background encompasses three post-grad degrees along with a command of aesthetics and precision. Both of those are necessary when creating the great results that we promise our patients. Being a graduate of the University of New Mexico and Marquette University School of Dentistry has provided me with a launching point for my practice at Cottonwood Dental. My ongoing research… [Read full bio]

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