How Does a Sugary Diet Affect Your Oral Health?

Since you were a kid, your parents warned you that eating too much sugar would rot your teeth. As an adult, you’re also aware that eating a diet high in simple carbohydrates and added sugars can harm not only your teeth, but your overall health as well. Today, we’re examining two distinct ways a sugar-heavy diet can negatively impact your teeth and gums and offering some practical tips for enjoying a healthy smile and the occasional sweet treat.

Sugar, Carbs, and Tooth Decay

You aren’t the only one enjoying that cupcake, that piece of candy snatched from the break room bowl, or that sweet, creamy café mocha. Bacteria living in your mouth also feed on the sugars and carbohydrates you eat, digesting them into lactic acid. This acid (along with any other types of acid found in the meal you just ate) sucks minerals from your tooth enamel, causing it to soften.

In a normal, healthy mouth, calcium and phosphate in the saliva flow through the mouth, reversing the effects of oral acids and helping the enamel remineralize. In the mouth of a person who consumes a high-sugar, high-carb diet, who sips sugary beverage throughout the day, or who has poor saliva production (dry mouth), remineralization never has a chance to occur. Tooth decay sets in as enamel begins to weaken and fail, creating cavities.

Sugar and Gum Health

Those same bacteria that cause tooth decay also set the stage for gum disease. Colonies of oral bacteria create a sticky biofilm known as plaque. As plaque builds up at the gum line, bacterial colonies feed on sugar present both in your food (as a result of eating and drinking) and sugar available through your bloodstream. The bacteria secrete lactic acid, which irritates the gum tissue, leading to the inflammation known as gingivitis. If not treated in the early stages, gingivitis will progress into full blown gum disease.

Be a Smart Cookie

The American Heart Association’s guidelines for adult nutrition suggest consuming no more than 22-32 grams of added sugar per day (sugars added to a food during processing, as opposed to naturally occurring sugars in whole foods like fruit). In real terms, that’s comparable to one 12 oz. can of soda, one 20 oz. bottle of vitamin water or sports drink, or one single-serve of fruit flavored yogurt. It’s okay to eat added sugar, but be sure to limit your intake. Don’t sip on sugary beverages throughout the day and, as always, brush, chew sugarless gum, or rinse your mouth out with water after eating or drinking.

About Shawn Hofkes, DDS

With advanced training in oral and maxillofacial surgery and certification in oral and IV sedation, Shawn Hofkes, DDS provides advanced dental services our state-of-the-art dentist office in Cerritos, CA. To schedule your appointment or consultation with Dr. Hofkes, contact us today. We proudly serve patients of all ages from Cerritos, Lakewood, Long Beach, Buena Park, and all surrounding communities.