What Does Sugar Consumption Do to My Teeth?

Sugar consumption and your teeth

Sugar consumption, cavities, and your teeth.  Do you know how they relate?  Chances are that this is not the first time you have seen those words linked in a phrase.  But, do you know what sugar consumption does to your teeth and why it is suggested that you limit your intake? The average American consumes 3 pounds of sugar each week.  The American Heart Association recommends no more than 9.5 teaspoons (approximately 47 grams) per day. The amount Americans are now consuming is well over the recommended amount.  According to brain scans, sugar is just as addictive as cocaine.  A form of sugar is in almost everything we eat, but taking an active role in knowing how to monitor your sugar consumption will boost both your oral health and your overall health as well. 

The Problem with Sugar

Is it is estimated that 130 pounds of sugar are consumed per person each year. That’s a lot of sugar. While a little bit of sugar doesn’t do much harm, too much can negatively impact your health and not just by the formation of cavities.  Sugar consumption can lead to coronary heart disease, type II diabetes, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, cancer and obesity. The doctors at Family and Cosmetic Dentistry of the Rockies are concerned with your overall health as much as your oral health because the two are very interconnected.

Sugar and Cavities

The impact of sugar consumption on the health of your teeth depends on what type of sugar you are consuming, how much of it you are consuming, how you are consuming it, and what you are doing after you consume it.  When it comes to your teeth, it isn’t as much the amount of sugar you are consuming but how often you consume it. Sugar that is delivered to your system in the form of juices or sodas is able to slip between the hard to reach parts of your teeth and mouth–areas that can only be cleaned with a good flossing and even then can be hard to remove.  Even with regular oral hygiene, those sugars can be difficult to reach resulting in increased growth of hungry bacteria which leads to tooth decay and cavities.  Foods with a high sugar content leave large amounts of sugar residue on your teeth that isn’t easily removed with your natural saliva production. These sugars foster bacteria growth and the acids that result from this destroy your tooth enamel.

A Tip About Soda

What might surprise you is that a 12-oz can of soda isn’t as destructive to your tooth enamel if you drink it quickly instead of sipping it over a few hours. Bacteria feeds on the sugar you ingest and acids are created in about 20 seconds and last for about 30 minutes. Acidic environments promote cavities. Our advice, if you aren’t ready to eliminate soda, limit your intake of it. If you are going to drink it, drink it in one sitting not sipping it over long period of time. Brush your teeth and use mouthwash if you have it after you drink soda. This advice goes for other drinks or juices that are high in sugar as well.  If you are ready to give soda the boot, try substituting it with green tea, water, natural juices mixed with seltzer (or by themselves), or soy milk. 

How to Prevent Cavities From Sugar Consumption

It is impossible to avoid all sugar because sugar is in almost everything we eat. But there are things you can do to help reduce the amount of sugar you are consuming every day and how that sugar is affecting your teeth:

  • Track your sugar consumption. Use an app like MyFitnessPal or use a journal to track how much sugar you are eating. You will be surprised to see what items that you regularly consume may need to be swapped out for lower-sugar options.
  • Vary your diet. Strive to get the daily nutrition you need from all of the five major food groups. If you crave sugar often, you may not be getting enough protein in your diet. Go for fresh, natural sugars found in fruits and vegetables instead of processed/refined sugars.
  • Make sure you get enough water. A recent study showed that nearly half of Americans are not getting enough water each day even though we have plenty of it. It is recommended that you get at least half your weight in ounces of water every day. More if you exercise or on hot days.
  • Limit snacks. If you are eating all day and not brushing after each snack your teeth are constantly bombarded with the bacteria that forms from the food you eat and sugars. If you are a snacker, reach for healthy snacks like raw vegetables and fruits. Cheese is especially helpful as it has been shown to reduce the acid attacks on your teeth.
  • Beware of artificial sweeteners. If something is claiming to be low-sugar or sugar-free beware! Artificial sweeteners still can create acidic environments in your mouth and have been connected with various health risks.
  • Practice good oral hygiene. Prevention is the best way to treat cavities. Brush your teeth after meals, floss your teeth in the morning and at night. Use a mouthwash after your cleaning routine to remove other particles you couldn’t reach.
  • Get Checked. Visit a Family and Cosmetic Dentistry of the Rockies dentist every 6 months for a cleaning and a comprehensive examination.

Call for a Consultation

If you’d like to know more about what you can do to preserve your smile, or if you’d like to make an appointment, call our Fort Collins office today at (970) 223-8425. You can also reach us after office hours by submitting a contact or appointment request online using the form below.