Sweet Tooth vs. Oral Health

A balanced diet is key to overall health, and the USDA’s guidelines encourage us to limit our intake of foods and beverages high in added sugar. No matter the age- young or old- we all get those got-to-have-it cravings for something sweet. If we stop and think about indulging in this sinful treat, however, we typically focus on counting calories rather than the effects on our oral health.

Candy and other sweets have long been connected to cavities. Why is this? As far as your oral health is concerned, it’s not so much what you eat, but how you eat it. Sugar is harmful to your dental health because it sticks to your teeth and turns to acid and plaque that can accumulate at your gum line and lead to tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease.

Totally avoiding added sugar just isn’t realistic, so the key to indulging in sugary confections is to limit the time your teeth are exposed to the sugar. To do this, eat sweets as a part of a meal instead of as a separate snack. After eating sweets or drinking sugary drinks, such as soda and fruit juice, rinse your mouth with water or consume dairy, such as milk, yogurt, or cheese, to coat your teeth and minimize the accumulation of bacteria. Wait about 30 minutes to brush your teeth any time you eat or drink. Your tooth enamel, the natural protective coating on your teeth, becomes soft when you eat, and waiting half an hour allows it to become hard again so that you don’t damage it or the dentin underneath with aggressive brushing.

For more information on oral health, please contact Dr. James Stewart, a family dentist in Livonia, Michigan, at 734-425-4400.