Foods and drinks full of sugar play a major role in the development of dental problems such as cavities and tooth staining. Foods that contain sugar include candies and cookies, cakes and biscuits, sugary breakfast cereals and dried fruit. Drinks that contain sugar include fresh fruit juices, many carbonated beverages, and alcoholic drinks such as wine and beer.
In addition to sugar, many carbonated beverages contain acids and color enhancers, which can lead to the staining of your teeth. Drinking coffee can also contribute and the acidity level of some carbonated drinks is so intense that it compares to the acidity of battery acid. Many of these beverages also contain flavored additives which contribute to their erosive effects.
A high-sugar diet contributes to dental problems when the bacteria in your mouth initiate the formation of a soft, sticky substance called plaque, which forms on the surface of your teeth. As plaque is colorless, it is impossible for you to see it on the surface of your teeth. However, you may feel its roughness when you run your tongue over your teeth.
The longer a sugary food remains in your mouth, the more likely it will be to promote plaque formation. Foods that stick to your teeth, such as caramel and sugary cereals, are therefore more likely to cause dental problems than foods that are quickly washed out of your mouth. When you neglect your dental hygiene, plaque can build up and adhere to the surface of your teeth. The bacteria in the plaque can produce harmful acids that eat away at your tooth enamel, causing dental problems.
To prevent decay, you do not need to eliminate sugar from your diet. However, to reduce your chance of developing dental problems, you may wish to limit your sugar consumption. If you must eat sugary foods, you should restrict your consumption to meal times, as eating sugary foods throughout the day will increase your risk of developing dental cavities.
If you have to eat between meals, you should aim to choose healthy snack options, such as fruits and nuts, instead of sugary foods, such as cookies and candies. If you enjoy high-sugar beverages, you may wish to consider sipping them through a straw to lessen your exposure to the harmful effects of sugar and acids. You may also wish to increase your water consumption, as water will help to minimize tooth staining, neutralize harmful acids and wash away any excess sugar left in your mouth following consuming sugary foods and drinks.
Regardless of whether you choose to follow a healthy, balanced diet, you should strive to brush your teeth twice daily and floss daily to remove pieces of food and plaque from between your teeth. If you are able to keep your teeth clean, you will prevent the buildup of the bacteria that cause dental problems.
Professional check-ups and cleanings are also essential to the maintenance of good oral health. Regular check-ups will enable your dentist to detect and monitor potential problems before they worsen, while thorough plaque control cleanings will enable your hygienist to reduce your risk of dental cavities and gum disease.
Doctor Scott Laudon is the owner of Alcan Dental Group, a dentist who has been serving Anchorage, Alaska for over 20 years. After serving in the military, Scott moved from Oregon to Alaska to open his own dental office.