What Impact Does Your Sweet Tooth have on Your Oral Health?

By Premier Dental of Ohio

sweet tooth

Do you have a sweet tooth?  You may not be surprised to find out that having a sweet tooth can be dangerous to your teeth.  Most people know that sugar causes cavities.  There are certain factors in the way someone satisfies a sweet tooth that can be more damaging than others can.

What is a Sweet Tooth?

A sweet tooth is a regular or consistent craving for sweets, like candy, chocolate, cookies, and cakes.

If you would rather reach for a handful of gummy bears than some chips for a snack, you have a sweet tooth.  If you feel that any meal without dessert just is not complete, you have a sweet tooth.  If you prefer Honey Nut Cheerios for breakfast to bacon and eggs, you probably have a sweet tooth.

How Does a Sweet Tooth Affect Your Mouth?

Having a sweet tooth in itself is not bad.  Constantly giving in to your sweet tooth is bad.

Our mouths are naturally filled with bacteria, and these bacteria eat sugar.  When you give in to your sweet tooth, you are feeding the bacteria in your mouth.  As the bacteria eat sugar, they produce acid as a by-product.  By eating lots of sugar, you are essentially lowering the pH in your mouth, creating an acidic environment.

An acidic mouth is an unhealthy mouth.  Bad bacteria thrive in an acidic environment, so your risk for cavities and gum disease increases.

How Does a Sweet Tooth Cause Cavities?

The simple carbohydrates in sugar and high fructose corn syrup are the easiest things for the bad bacteria to digest.  The can digest complex carbohydrates, but it takes longer, so cavities are less likely from grains and vegetables than from sweets.

As the bacteria digest sugar, they produce acid.  The bacteria in our mouths collect in the deep pits and grooves of the biting surface of teeth or in the nooks and crannies between teeth.  They cling to the teeth in the form of plaque, so the acid they produce lands right on your enamel.

Acid weakens and softens enamel in the same way that it etches glass.  As the enamel gets softer, the bacteria can penetrate into the tooth, dissolving the tooth structure as they go.

This is the process a cavity undergoes.

Because simple sugars are easiest for bacteria to digest, they are the most likely to cause cavities.

What Types of Sweets are Worst for Your Teeth?

When it comes to sweets, some are actually more dangerous and cavity-causing than others.  One of the most important factors in the cavity process is the length of time that sugar stays in contact with the teeth.

This means there are two really bad types of sweets:

  • Sweets that stick to the teeth, like gummy treats, caramels, and other sticky candies.
  • Sweets that you suck on for a prolonged period of time, like peppermints, lollipops, or hard candies.

There are also some sweets that are actually not so terrible for you.  Cookies, cupcakes and cake fall into this category because they contain butter and eggs.  Proteins and fats help balance out the sugar content.  Chocolate, especially dark chocolate, is also relatively good for you because it contains milk and fat.

How Can You Satisfy a Sweet Tooth and Maintain Healthy Teeth?

First, you must be committed to keeping your teeth clean.  Because of the increased risk for cavities that comes with a sweet tooth, you must be ever more diligent with your oral hygiene.  Best practices include brushing twice a day, flossing every night before bed, and using a fluoride mouthrinse.

Next, choose the sweets that are least likely to stick to your teeth for long periods of time.  Avoid jelly beans, caramels and gummy treats.  Switch to chocolates!

Also, have sweets as part of a meal instead of a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack.  When you are eating a meal, your body is producing a lot of saliva, which is its natural defense against cavities.  So your body fights cavities best during mealtimes.  Instead of snacking on sweets, enjoy them as a dessert!

Be preventive!  Use fluoride toothpaste and additional fluoride products as recommended by your dentist.  People who are very likely to get cavities should be consistently strengthening their enamel with fluoride vitamins.  There are great over-the-counter fluoride products available to help you have strong teeth!  If you need a little extra help, one of our dentists can prescribe additional supplements to help you prevent cavities.

Lastly, never miss a dental visit.  Cavities do not start overnight.  It takes time, and in that time, sometimes your dentist can spot the warning signs.  When you see your dentist regularly, he or she can spot these red flags early and help you make the necessary changes to avoid needing costly dental work.

Do You Have a Sweet Tooth?

If you do have a sweet tooth and do not have a dentist, call your nearest Premier Dental of Ohio location today to set up a new patient consultation.  Our dentists and their teams will give you all the tools you need to stop cavities before they start!

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