Summer is just around the corner. And for a lot of us, that means starting a healthy diet and exercise plan to lean down for those upcoming beach trips. Oftentimes, we associate eating “healthy” with cutting out sugar, or at least limiting it in favor of other sugar-free products. While we do encourage our patients to limit cavity-causing sugary foods, we also don’t want you to fall victim to the sugar-free trap!
How Sugar Affects Your Teeth
Sugar has a lot of negative impacts on your overall health, but it affects your teeth in a different way than you might think. The sugar itself is not what harms your teeth, but the way the bacteria in your mouth metabolizes it into tooth-eroding acids.
When you eat a piece of candy, the sugar particles left behind in your mouth become instant fuel for the germs living there. The bacteria digests the sugar and then produces an acid waste, which is the real culprit behind tooth decay.
Eventually, the acids will create small pockets in your enamel where more and more bacteria builds up, repeating the cycle until tooth decay becomes a major problem.
Eliminating Sugar – Difficult and Unnecessary
As with any food, sugar is bad for you in excess and can have a particularly harmful effect on your teeth. Removing it completely from your diet, however, isn’t necessary.
Foods like potatoes, fruits, and vegetables found in nature all contain sugar, and eliminating them completely is no small task. Plus, fruits and vegetables contain many essential vitamins and minerals, which is why we don’t recommend removing them completely. There is a big difference between healthy fructose and unnatural sugars.
The Artificial Sweetener Trap
A lot of our patients who try to cut down on sugar end up opting for artificial sweeteners instead, and those come with an array of their own problems!
Unlike cavities, which are caused by sugar-loving bacteria as described above, dental erosion is caused by repeated exposure to certain acids, a lot of which are found in these sugar-free alternatives. Many sugar-free products contain acidic additives that can slowly dissolve the enamel.
Dental erosion can cause:
- Chalkiness on the surface of the teeth
- Tooth sensitivity
- Exposure of pre-existing fillings
When trying to go sugar-free, a lot of people end up choosing foods and drinks packed with corrosive artificial sweeteners.
Drinks that contain artificial sweeteners can keep your sugar intake low, but they often contain other chemicals that do just as much damage to your teeth. Diet sodas usually have citric and phosphoric acids, and when consumed regularly, these can wreak havoc on your enamel.
Sugar-free candies are often marketed as healthy alternatives to their sugary counterparts, but be careful. A lot of sugar-free candies have citric acid in them, which will damage your enamel. Additionally, a lot of sugar-free candies are still chewy and hard to clean from your teeth. Try to avoid candies like lollipops, caramels, or sours whenever possible—whether they have sugar or not!
We always encourage our patients to strive for a healthier lifestyle. Eating nutrient-dense meals, limiting junk food, and stepping up your oral care routine are all great habits to adopt. But make sure you pay attention to the changes that you make, because you could be sabotaging yourself with equally unhealthy practices without even knowing it.
If you want to learn more about how to make positive lifestyle changes, feel free to browse our other blog posts or make an appointment with our team! We can assess your risk of dental erosion and perform an oral health checkup that will ensure that you stay healthy this summer.