Local Dental Blogs - Philadelphia, PA

How Sugar Affects Your Teeth and Gums

Sugar is in so many food products, it’s hard to stay away from it. There are the obvious offenders, like pastries and deserts; but you can find sugar in items as surprising as BBQ sauce and ketchup.

And of course, there’s sugar in fruits, too, despite their other health benefits.

A little bit of these foods here and there can seem harmless, but if you’re not careful, the sugar from these can damage your teeth and gums. Below, we’ll explore how and why.

Sugar’s Effects On Your Teeth

A certain group of bacteria in your mouth called streptococcus mutans thrives on sugar. When you eat foods containing sugar, these bacteria feast on any sugars that remain on your teeth and produce acid. This acid can eat away at the minerals in your tooth enamel, weakening it and possibly leading to holes in your teeth, called cavities.

You can’t always see cavities initially because they’re so small. However, untreated cavities can grow larger and spread deeper into the tooth.

This can lead to tooth pain, damage, infection, and even tooth loss. 

Sugar’s Effects On Your Gums

If you don’t take excellent care of your mouth, the acid from the streptococcus mutans mixes with the bacteria itself to form a slimy substance called plaque. Plaque can harden into tartar on your teeth and eventually lead to your gums receding and becoming inflamed. This leads to gingivitis, the first stage of gum disease.

There’s another type of bad bacteria in your mouth that loves sugar called porphyromonas gingivalis. These bacteria thrive in anaerobic environments, meaning environments that lack oxygen.

The area under your gums is the perfect place for these bacteria.

Gingivitis allows the porphyromonas gingivalis to spread underneath your gums and, along with the tartar, further push you towards periodontitis. Left untreated, the periodontitis can lead to loose teeth, painful abscesses, and even jawbone loss.

Note: when gum disease is left untreated, bad bacteria can find their way into your bloodstream and spread to other areas of the body, and contribute to a variety of health problems, from minor to life-threatening.

Keep The Sugar-Loving Bacteria at Bay

It’s hard to ask people to give up sugar entirely. Without it, we wouldn’t have so many treats.

Still, you can do a few things to minimize sugar’s harmful effects and keep a healthy mouth.

  • Cut down on sugary foods: You can still eat sugar, but try to limit it. Find sugar-free replacements for foods with sugar if possible.
  • Cut down on other “bad” foods: Foods that stain or chip your teeth will only make the problems associated with sugar worse. Try to limit your consumption of these foods and drinks.
  • Good oral health habits: Brush at least twice a day with a soft-bristled brush and fluoridated toothpaste. Floss once a day. Use mouthwash if you can as well.

On your own, you can’t truly see if sugar is negatively affecting your mouth until it’s too late. For that, you should see a dentist like Absolute Smile regularly (at least every six months). 

We’ll give you a thorough cleaning to clear out sugar, plaque, and other harmful substances. From there, we can examine your mouth in detail to find and fix potential problems before they become painful and expensive. All new patients get a free consultation, so contact us today to schedule your appointment!

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