Most people enjoy something sweet, and being regarded as sweet or living a sweet life is seen as a compliment. However, if your life is too sweet, it can harm your dental health. Unfortunately, the consumption of sugar worldwide is a problem, and all too often, sugar is hidden in everyday products that may initially seem healthy and wholesome.
It may be enjoyable when you have something sugary, but bear in mind that bacteria found in dental plaque also enjoy the sweet stuff. After eating something sweet, the sugary residue in your mouth enables these bacteria to thrive. As they do so, they create acid as a byproduct. The acid softens your tooth enamel by removing some essential minerals, including calcium and phosphorus. Some of these minerals are redeposited back into your tooth enamel as acidity levels decline, and pH levels start to normalise. However, repeated exposure to sugars eventually erodes your tooth enamel to such an extent that cavities start to develop in your teeth.
The problem with sugar is that it can cause tooth decay, negatively impact your general health, and is linked with diabetes and obesity, amongst others.
Sugary drinks can be especially bad for teeth, particularly if you sip a drink for a long time. The longer your teeth are exposed to sugar, the greater the risk of damage. Instead, look for alternatives. The best way to rehydrate is water. Keep a pitcher of chilled water in your refrigerator, and ensure each family member has a reusable water bottle. If you want to flavour the water, add fresh fruit or cucumber. Try to avoid diet drinks as these often have acid added for flavour, and the acid will automatically begin to erode your tooth enamel.
It’s unreasonable to expect anyone to cut out all sugary foods from their diet, but you can eat smarter. Get into the habit of reading food labels to see which foods contain more sugar than others. You may be surprised as some foods like fruit leather, granola or energy bars may seem healthy until you look at the sugar content. Try to retrain your tastebuds by choosing less sugary options or fresh fruit for a sweet treat. In time, you may be surprised to find that some previous favourite foods now taste too sugary as your taste buds adjust.
When you want something sweet and sugary, include it as part of your main meal when your mouth is already producing more saliva that can help wash away excess food particles. Ideally, complete your meal with cheese, as the calcium will help to strengthen your tooth enamel. After you finish eating, rinse your mouth with plain water but wait at least half an hour before cleaning your teeth as this allows pH levels in your mouth to begin to normalise, letting some of those minerals be re-deposited back into your tooth enamel. If you brush too soon, you brush softened tooth enamel and increase the damage to your teeth.