Holidays are popular events to indulge in sugary treats, including all the candy that we’ll receive in our Easter baskets next month. However, it is well known that sugar can lead to tooth decay. Let’s learn about the chain of events that occurs in your mouth when you eat a sugary treat and ways to prevent tooth decay when eating a sugary treat.
Sugar attracts harmful bacteria; harmful bacteria feed on the sugar you eat and form dental plaque on your teeth. If the dental plaque isn’t washed away by saliva or brushing, the environment in your mouth becomes more acidic. Essentially, the harmful bacteria produce acid in your mouth as they digest the sugar, and these acids remove vital minerals from your tooth enamel, which is the protective, outer layer of your tooth. This process is referred to as an “acid attack.” The minerals in your saliva, such as calcium, are always at work to reverse the damage from those acids. The fluoride from toothpaste and water also helps the enamel repair itself by replacing minerals lost during an acid attack. However, the repeated cycle of acid attacks weakens and destroys the enamel, which may result in the formation of a cavity – a hole in your tooth. If left untreated, the cavity can spread to deeper layers of the tooth resulting in toothache, infection, or possible tooth loss.
Here are some tips to prevent tooth decay:
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet.
- Drink a lot of water.
- Chew sugar-free gum and add raw vegetables to your meals, both of which increase the flow of saliva in your mouth.
- Avoid sugary, processed, or starchy foods
- However, when you do eat these types of foods, have them with your meals instead of between meals – this approach may cause you to eat less of this type of food because you may be full sooner. Also, drink some tap water that contains fluoride to help rinse out your mouth and dilute the sugar that sticks to your teeth.
- Avoid sweet or acidic beverages
- However, when you do drink these types of beverages, consider drinking through a straw – this will give your teeth less exposure to the sugar or acid in the drink.
- Practice good oral hygiene: brush at least twice per day, use toothpaste that contains fluoride, and floss daily.
Signs of tooth decay include generalized tooth pain, pain when chewing, and sensitivity to sweet, hot, or colds foods and drinks. In addition to the list of tips to prevent tooth decay, make sure to visit your dentist every six months so your mouth can be regularly monitored for tooth decay.