Sugar and Oral Health – What’s New?

A variety of brightly coloured candy

Read time: 2 mins

I’m sure it’s no surprise to anyone that sugar and dental decay have a very close relationship. The mechanism of this relationship is as follows:

  1. Plaque bacteria live on the teeth
  2. Plaque bacteria feed on sugar in the diet
  3. Plaque acid dissolves enamel
  4. Plaque bacteria start to consume tooth structure (decay) as a food source
  5. Decay spreads to nerve and toothache pain is the major symptom

While the ultimate solution would be to remove all sugar from our diets, realistically, this is very difficult to do as there are many hidden sugars present in foods today. There are, however, precautions that can be taken to improve your chances against dental decay.

Brush and Floss Teeth

Mechanical removal is the best way to improve your chances. Brushing and flossing is the best way to do this and investing in an electric toothbrush can take a lot of the technical nuances out of the process. 

Reduce Added Sugars

Try to limit additional sugars in the diet. Removing sugar from tea & coffee is a great start to this process, limiting consumption of fruit juices (which are extremely high in sugar) and other sugary drinks are also key. Energy drinks, soft drinks, sports drinks and flavoured milk are also extremely high in sugar so eliminating these or replacement with an artificially sweetened product is a step in the right direction.

Timing of Sugar Consumption

Sugar has the worst impact if exposure is of high frequency thus grazing on sweets should be avoided. If you would really like to have a sweet treat, then the best time to have these are around meal times. The reasoning for this is that saliva flow is greatest around meals and this has a protective function. It will help in clearing the sugar residue from teeth and neutralise any plaque acid formed. 

Type of Sugar

The worst types of sugars are those that are sticky (Eg. caramel or turkish delight) and those that are present in sugary drinks. It may surprise you to know that sweet biscuits stick to teeth and can be as bad as caramel. Also potato crisps are turned into simple sugars on contact with saliva. These stick to teeth and feed bacteria that produce plaque acids. Things like fruit are a great alternative to processed sugars.

There are many other unexpected things that can damage your teeth, however following these steps, in conjunction with regular dental visits will provide a fantastic base to improving your chances against dental decay. Come visit us at Pennant Hills Dental Centre for all your dental needs. Call on (02) 9484 1132 or book online!


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