Does Sugar Really Cause Tooth Decay?


The culprit causing tooth decay is not sugar itself but the acid created by bacteria who feed on the sugar and other carbohydrates like sugar.

Is sugar the culprit? Not exactly. Ask any dental care professional in the field, sugar does not decay teeth. Do not blame sugar, but instead blame the streptococcus bacteria that live inside your mouth in biofilms called plaque. These bacteria feed on carbohydrates and exude harmful acids that destroy the calcium layer that cover your teeth. Saliva can neutralize the acid but when the mouth gets too much of acidic, the teeth get demineralized and rot. In this light, even bread and other carbohydrates stand on equal footing with sugar in relation to our teeth.

Cooked starches like chips and fries are harder to remove in the mouth as they cling more than food with high sugar levels like chocolates; this is the outcome of one study by New York University Dental Care. Food that can stay longer in the mouth gives the bacteria more time to secrete acid and more time to eat, increasing the risk of tooth decay greatly. Many researches and studies have also shown that people who eat more often run greater risks of tooth decay.

In a study conducted by the New York University Dental School it was found that cooked starches such as potato chips and French fries cling on the teeth much longer than sugary foods such as plain chocolate bars. This means that they have greater potential of causing tooth decay because of the longer period of acid production by the bacteria. Remember that it is not the sugar itself that destroys teeth, but the acid produced by bacteria eating on the carbohydrates stuck to our teeth. Sugar is only one among many sources of carbohydrates that come from our diet. Several studies have also shown that tooth decay is related to the frequency of eating; not just the amount of sugar or starch consumed. Frequent snacking harms the teeth because it reintroduces food particles which feed the bacteria.

What does help is if you brush your teeth immediately. Take extra care not to feed the streptococcus bacteria that live on the plaque on your teeth by brushing your teeth regularly, and if you are at a restaurant and eat something sweet, rinse with a mouthful of water immediately to dilute the sugar or carbohydrate. Brush daily and use a fluoride toothpaste. Make sure your dentist regularly removes plaque and tartar (calculus) that accumulates on your teeth over time. This way you can attack the problem of tooth decay and gum disease at its very source.

Researches reveal that diet is one of the most important factors in the health of our teeth. For example, people who eat food which are rich in vitamin c and calcium have strong teeth and healthy gums. Calcium helps strengthen the outer layer of the teeth (also called the enamel) while vitamin c helps keep the gums healthy. If you wanted to save on dental care cost, then the solutions are simple -you should learn how to prepare a healthy meal from home and you should teach your kids the importance of dental care. Whoever thought that a daily glass of milk and an egg for breakfast are enough to prevent emergency dental care?

Knowing this, we now have a greater understanding of tooth decay and how we can prevent it. Regular brushing and flossing are still the most effective ways for dental care. They clear away food residue and more importantly, the plaque that harbour bacteria. Thus the mechanical disruption and removal of the bacteria starve the bacteria and keep their growth in check. The faster the bacterial plaque and food debris is removed from your mouth, the less chance it will feed the bacteria and cause tooth decay.

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