The Effects of Sugar on Your Oral & Overall Health
Everyone knows that too much sugar is not good for your overall health. It can damage your teeth, cause weight gain, poor nutrition and lead to other health conditions like heart disease or stroke.
While we tend to think of cookies, cake, ice cream and soda as the main offenders in the world of sugar, there are a plethora of other foods that also contain high amounts of sugar. Many foods like bread, potatoes, fruit and beans are also full of sugar that can wreak havoc on your teeth and body.
Let’s look at the damage sugar from causes both inside your mouth and inside your body.
Sugar & Your Teeth
Too much sugar on your teeth leads to cavities and tooth decay. The American Dental Association lists tooth decay as the most chronic childhood disease in America. What many people don’t know is the damage done to your teeth isn’t actually done by the sugars themselves. The assault on your teeth comes from the chain of events that occurs in your mouth when you eat or drink foods heavy with sugar.
Your mouth is full of bacteria, and good oral health is dependent on having the right balance of the right kind of bacteria. Some of the bacteria in your mouth feed on the sugar you eat and drink. The result is the creation of certain acids that break down tooth enamel (demineralization).
The attack on your teeth rages for about 20 minutes after you indulge in something sweet. Think about the damage done to your teeth if you are sipping on sugary drinks or coffee with flavored creamer throughout the day. Sucking on a lollipop or snacking on sweet foods for long periods of time exposes your mouth and teeth to excessive amounts of sugar. It’s a special treat for those sugar-loving bacteria, but a full-out battle for your teeth.
We need strong enamel to protect our teeth, so when the enamel is weak or destroyed, cavities can occur. Without treatment, these bacterial infections in your teeth can progress past the tooth enamel into deeper layers of your tooth. Serious damage including tooth loss and serious pain can happen.
Your Mouth Fights Back!
The good news is there are ways to counteract this chain reaction in your mouth:
- Consume less sugar! Reducing or eliminating sugary drinks and food means there is less sugar sitting on your teeth for bacteria to feed on.
- Brush your teeth twice a day, especially after over-indulging in sweet treats.
- Floss! Sugar and food particles can get stuck in between the teeth.
- Drink lots of water to wash away sugars left on your teeth and promote saliva production.
- Snack less. Snacking throughout the day means your teeth and mouth are constantly exposed to sugar and the resulting acids created.
More good news is that your mouth is constantly fighting back against the assault on your teeth’s enamel. To counteract demineralization, your mouth naturally performs remineralization to replace minerals taken away by the acids created when bacteria feeds off sugar in your mouth.
Remineralization occurs through the application and use of fluoride, but also through your mouth’s saliva. Our saliva contacts phosphates and calcium that help repair damage done to the enamel.
Oral Health Affects Overall Health
Your mouth is the gateway to your whole body. Most people don’t know or think about how the health of your mouth affects the health of your whole body, but it absolutely matters. Unless you have pain in a tooth or in your mouth, you don’t really think about what is happening in that part of your body and how it can trickle down to the rest of you.
An overabundance of bad bacteria in your mouth can enter your blood stream and make its way into the rest of your body. This can lead to very serious medical problems like stroke, heart attack or dementia. (Research has shown that people with dementia have unusually large amounts of the same bacteria that cause gingivitis.)
Even asthma can be worsened if the bad bacteria in our mouths is left to flourish. Bacteria from periondontal disease can travel into the lungs and exacerbate respiratory conditions.
Sugar Contributes to Obesity & Nutritional Deficits
For children, obesity and poor nutrition are more immediate concerns from ingesting too much sugar. The American Heart Association has reported that the rise in childhood obesity is heavily linked to an increased consumption of sugary drinks. Add to this a more sedentary lifestyle among many children due to more screen time and couch sitting and obesity is no surprise.
Sugar contains calories (a lot of calories), but no nutrients. A large piece of chocolate cake might make you physically full, but you haven’t given your body any real food to help it function. When kids fill up on junk food and sugar-laden snacks, they likely won’t have an appetite for nutrient-dense foods crucial to their development. All these empty calories can result in nutrition deficiencies that impact overall development and may affect their immune system.
Smile Surfers Kids Dentistry
Book your little surfer’s appointment with our Smile Surfers team today! Our pediatric dentists in both Richland and Sumner are specially trained to identify oral health problems and can provide education and advice on how to help keep your kiddos’ mouths and teeth healthy and strong! Our goal is to provide exceptional dental care as well as total body wellness for you and your family.