Everyone knows eating too much sugar can lead to tooth decay, but few are aware of exactly how that happens. It’s not the sugar itself that does the damage, but rather the chain of evens that occurs after you eat that delicious desert. Below are some tips on how you can prevent cavities from forming..
How Cavities Develop
According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NICDR), the mouth is full of hundreds of bacteria, many of which are beneficial to the oral ecosystem. However, certain harmful oral bacteria actually feed on the sugars you eat to create acids that destroy the tooth enamel, which is the shiny, protective outer layer of the tooth. Cavities are a bacterial infection created by acids that cause your teeth to experience a hole in them. Without treatment, cavities can progress past the enamel and into the deeper layers of the tooth, causing pain and possible tooth loss.
A Constant Battle in the Mouth
Your teeth are frequently under attack by bacteria that release acids, but the good news is this damage is constantly being reversed. Acids leech minerals from the enamel through a process called demineralization. Fortunately, the natural process of remineralization replaces those minerals and strengthens the teeth all over again – and your saliva is a key player. Saliva is the body’s natural buffer system because it contains minerals such as calcium and phosphates to help repair the teeth. Fluoride is another mineral that helps repair weakened enamel. However, replacing lost minerals can only do so much to prevent the effects of sugar on teeth if you eat lots of sweets and starches throughout the day. Limiting your sugar intake is vital if you want to give your mouth a chance to repair the damage.
Ways to Remineralize Tooth Enamel
Experts at the University of Rochester Medical Center offer several tips for preventing cavities. In addition to cutting down on sugar, stimulating saliva flow is recommended to help bathe the teeth in minerals. Chewing sugarless gum and incorporating fibrous vegetables and fruits into your diet are good ways to salivate. Cheese, yogurt and other dairy products also contain calcium and phosphates to strengthen the teeth, and are much better choices for snack time than sugary or starchy treats. Additionally, green and black teas contain substances that help suppress harmful oral bacteria, so adding a few cups to your daily routine – without sugar, of course – can help maintain a healthy balance in the mouth.
Finally, fluoride is a mineral that not only prevents tooth decay, but also reverses it in its early stages, according to the American Dental Association (ADA). So drink plenty of fluoridated water and brush regularly with an ADA-approved fluoride toothpaste. The ADA also recommends professional fluoride treatments from a dentist.
So, the next time you decide to eat that cake, just brush with a fluoridated toothpaste to help decrease the acids from forming on your teeth.