Shhh. We won’t tell the kids if you don’t, but listen up: Sugar doesn’t really cause cavities. Acids do, and sugar is just a very powerful conduit.
So what your parents always told you isn’t completely true, but it’s close.
Here’s how it works.
Why the Myth that Sugar Causes Cavities Exists
When you consume sugar, or any starches for that matter, the bacteria in your mouth mix with the starches that are left over and produce acids. The acids, in turn, dissolve the enamel on your teeth. When the enamel wears away, you end up with decay, or dental cavities.
Remember that many of these foods are very acidic as well, so that aspect only adds to the drama inside your mouth.
So what’s the bottom line?
Now that you know sugar doesn’t really cause cavities on its own, go ahead and enjoy holiday eggnog, chocolates, pumpkin pie, fresh-baked cookies, baklava, sweet potato pie, candy cane brownies. … Have we emptied out the pantry yet?
Just make sure you brush your teeth after eating these treats so that the sugar, acids, and bacteria don’t stand a fighting chance of invading your mouth.
You also might want to hit the gym, but that’s a different department. …
Some Other Things You Need to Know about Sugar and Cavities
- When they work together, acids and sugar are a powerful force when it comes to breaking down the enamel on your teeth. And do you know what contains both acids and sugar? Soda pop and other sweetened, carbonated beverages, of course! If you insist on drinking these beverages, our dentists and hygienists recommend drinking them in one sitting rather than sipping on them throughout the day. Sipping on them all day long bathes your teeth in sugar and acids, making it that much harder to fight dental erosion.
- Drinking water throughout the day can help neutralize the acids in your mouth. You might want to consider drinking water alongside sugary, carbonated beverages as well.
- Saliva is your ally in this battle. Saliva contains calcium, phosphates, and other minerals that neutralize acids and help all the components of your mouth work together properly. If you have a dry mouth, therefore, you’re more likely to develop dental cavities. Talk with our dentist or hygienists for recommendations about the best dry mouth treatment for you.
- Fluoride can help prevent cavities by strengthening tooth surfaces. You can request fluoride treatments at our dentist’s office or use fluoride gels at home. Each person’s needs are different, however, so ask us if this is a viable option for you.
For more information about the relationship between sugar and cavities, to learn more about fluoride treatments, or to schedule a routine dental exam at our Grosse Pointe office, contact us through our website or by phone at (313) 379-5726.