Sugar and Your Teeth

Why is your orthodontist in Melbourne, FL always encouraging you to stay away from sugar? Great question! Since many of our patients are wearing braces, it’s more involved to fill in cavities while they’re undergoing treatment. The wire will have to be removed, and maybe even one of the brackets on their teeth, before the cavity can be filled in. Then everything has to be reversed to get the braces back on. And what’s the main cause of cavities? (Hint: Sugar is a really common culprit!) Here’s a closer look at what sugar does to your teeth, and why you should try to limit your intake of sugary snacks and drinks.

How Sugar Causes Cavities

Sugar does two things when it encounters your teeth: It changes the acidity in your mouth, and it attracts bad bacteria. Bad bacteria like to have sugar for lunch, and this causes the bacteria to form plaque on your teeth. Plaque is removed by brushing and flossing, using mouthwash, and having your teeth professionally cleaned at least once or twice a year. If the plaque stays on your teeth for too long, it eventually becomes acidic and starts to eat through the enamel or outer shell of the teeth. The plaque causes cavities, in other words.

Sugar causes other problems for your oral health as well. Some of the bad bacteria that it attracts can lead to conditions like gingivitis and gum disease. These diseases cause receding gums and make you lose the connecting tissues that help hold your teeth in the right place.

Your Saliva Tries to Fight Sugar Acidity

Every time that you eat or drink something sugary, it exposes your mouth to more bacteria that are changing the acidity in your mouth. The saliva in your mouth actually combats the acidity forming from the sugar. But there’s only so much that your saliva can do. If a person eats and drinks too many sugary products, it overwhelms the natural protection provided by their saliva.

The scientific literature supports this as well. According to a 2016 study published by Advances in Nutrition, there is a direct correlation between the amounts of sugar that a person consumes and the number of cavities they develop over their lifetime. People who consume less sugar have fewer cavities. People who consume more sugar have more cavities.

Solid Sugars and Your Teeth

There is a lot more sugar in regular foods than most people realize. Some foods naturally have sugar in them, like fruits and vegetables. But sugar is also present in most foods that we think of as snacks, like cookies, birthday cakes and chips. Foods with high amounts of processed white sugar are especially bad for teeth. Also, frequent snacking on sugary foods increases the risk of cavities because it increases the amount of time that your teeth are exposed to sugars every day. It produces more sugary residue on the teeth, and the saliva alone can’t keep up with it.

Sugary Drinks and Your Teeth

Drinks with high sugar content, such as sodas and juice, have their own acidity that eats away at the teeth. This is on top of the sugar that you’re already exposing your teeth to from the drink in the first place! Drinks with high fructose corn syrup, especially sodas, are even worse. The syrup from these drinks coats the entire inside of the mouth, and it stays there, attracting bad bacteria. Even if you brush your teeth, the insides of your cheeks will still have some syrup present, which gets on your teeth and allows the bacteria to go right back to work. This is why we recommend that all of our braces patients stay away from sugary drinks entirely.

Your Diet and the Health of Your Teeth

While undergoing treatment with braces, you’re going to have to make some changes to your diet. Patients with braces are actually more likely to develop cavities, since it’s harder to thoroughly brush the teeth. This is why cavities are such a big risk for patients working to correct their smile with braces.

If you are interested in braces for yourself or your child, contact our Melbourne orthodontist office to schedule an appointment today!