You’ve heard about the dangers of sugars before. So much that “health” and “sugar” seem to be conflicting terms. You’re right.. Sugar and health don’t go together and in this article, we’ll explore how sugar affects your dental health.
Results of A High-Sugar Diet
A high-sugar diet causes blood glucose levels (a.k.a. blood sugar) to soar and dive. The drastic fluctuations can make you feel tired, moody, and generally ill. Sugar makes you crave more sugar. A steady sugar-intake keeps your blood glucose unstable and perpetuates the cycle.
Coronary Artery Disease, Diabetes, Cancer, and Obesity
While your sugar intake continues and your blood glucose levels are on a roller coaster ride, complications begin to develop. Excessive sugar over a long period of time is the leading cause of Type 2 diabetes and obesity. Heart disease and Cancer are connected to higher insulin levels, which are a direct result of high-sugar diets. Sugar is also known to suppress your immune system and increases the production of unwanted bacteria and yeast.
Sugar attaches to proteins in your blood by a process called glycation. The result is a loss in elasticity in the skin, which causes sagging and wrinkling.
Tooth Decay and Gum Disease
Sugar molecules combine with saliva and bacteria. Plaque forms on the teeth as a result and dissolves enamel. The process continues until cavities form. Once gum disease starts, it continues to advance. The body does not correct this on its own like it would with a common cold. If left uncorrected, gum disease can turn into periodontitis, which is an inflammation of the tissues, ligaments, and bones beneath the gums. Periodontitis can give way to bacteria that travel throughout the body, invade joints, connective tissues, and even organs. Gum disease doesn’t just stay in the mouth. Once the infection spreads, it can lead to heart disease through blood clots that clog arteries.
3 Factors to Consider in Cavity Formation
Saliva does several things. It lubricates your mouth, helps break down food, but it also mineralizes your teeth. The volume, prevalence of minerals, and pH are all critical factors of saliva to consider.
The gut microbiome is a popular topic in health. Your oral microbiome refers to the world of bacteria present in your mouth. The balance of microbes (neutral, harmful, and beneficial) determines greatly the likelihood of cavities to form.
Diet is a huge factor. Even with proper maintenance and hygiene, a poor diet low in nutrients and minerals can be a significant contributor to cavity formation. The food you eat has a direct impact on your oral microbiome and saliva. A lousy diet means harmful bacteria, which in turn produces tooth decay. Sugar feeds bacteria that produce acids that eat away your teeth. Your saliva combats this by mineralizing your teeth. Over time this demineralizes your body.
Carbohydrates turn to glucose (sugar), which feeds the harmful bacteria — again leading to tooth decay. Studies show that children who regularly snack on processed junk food like potato chips and cookies are at least four times as likely to form cavities.
Here’s a brief list of foods that are fan favorites of cavities.
● Pastry sweets
● Fruit juice
● Dried fruit
● Soda (especially dark cola)
● Wine & Alcohol
The Battle of Demineralization and Mineralization
The back-and-forth battle in your mouth follows something like this: First, sugar attracts dangerous bacteria. Next, the bacteria produce acids that eat away at teeth (tooth decay). Lastly, saliva works to reverse the decline (mineralization). The cycle repeats as minerals and enamel is lost. Teeth are weakened, destroyed, and cavities form.
Other Sugary Factors You Were Afraid to Know
Sugar lowers your mouth’s pH (pH of 5.5 or lower dissolves minerals) which makes your mouth more acidic and causes bad breath. Sugar is best treated by brushing after every meal or altogether avoided.
Breath mints, hard candies, dried fruit, and lollipops are all sticky foods that give harmful bacteria plenty of time to digest the sugar and produce more acids.
Any food that lingers in the mouth is suspected of causing cavities.