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What Does Sugar Do to Your Teeth?

We know that sugar is bad for your teeth and your diet. But, once upon a time, we weren’t aware of the damage it caused! Not only do we know that sugar is bad for your teeth, but we also know why. Eating sugar here and there isn’t going to hurt your teeth. However, a high-sugar diet can increase your chances of developing tooth decay or gum disease. Additionally, poor oral hygiene worsens the effects of sugar. 

So what does sugar do to your teeth?

Man brushing his teeth in the mirror preventative dentistry dentist in Burlington North Carolina

It Destroys Enamel and Increases Bacteria

Think of your mouth as a small environment–even with living creatures! The little creatures that live in your mouth are bacteria. There are many varieties of bacteria, both good and bad. Bacteria feed on the leftover food particles in your mouth. One type of bacteria (plaque) turns sugar into acid, weakening the enamel. 

The enamel is the protective layer on the outside of your teeth. It guards the inner nerves and blood vessels from damage. When acids dissolve the enamel, you will likely develop tooth decay. Tooth decay begins as a small cavity but can advance to infection or tooth loss. 

Sugar increases the number of bacteria in your mouth. Additionally, bacteria will begin to eat away at your enamel if you don’t brush or floss your teeth properly. The more sugar you consume, the more bacteria that will grow. 

How Does It Harm Your Teeth?

As the bacteria react to the sugar, it produces an acid. The acid will weaken your enamel and remove vital minerals. This is a process known as demineralization. With good oral health, this damage is usually reversed through remineralization. 

Your saliva works to neutralize bacteria and balance the environment in your mouth. In addition, saliva contains valuable minerals, such as calcium and phosphate, which can repair enamel. Also, many kinds of toothpaste include minerals that aid in restoring enamel. For example, toothpaste and mouthwash can help to restore lost minerals during your oral health routine. 

Unfortunately, you will still lose minerals over time. Repeatedly losing and replacing minerals destroys the enamel. Eventually, you can develop cavities. 

Symptoms of Cavities

When cavities initially form, you may not have any physical symptoms. Instead, you may notice discoloration, such as a black or brown spot. However, if you go to the dentist regularly, your dentist will easily be able to identify a cavity before it causes too much damage. 

As the cavity burrows further into your tooth, you will start to feel pain and discomfort. In addition, you may notice sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures in your diet. For example, eating ice cream or drinking hot coffee may hurt. Additionally, sugary foods may cause pain. 

Without treatment, the cavity will worsen and decay into the tooth’s nerve. Typically, dentists will remove the decay and use a dental filling. However, bad cavities may need a root canal and a crown to stop the decay.