Did you know that in the UK, an incredible 90 million chocolate eggs are sold every Easter? According to consumer research, each of these contains an average of 55-65% added sugar. That’s equivalent to as much as 30 teaspoons of sugar for a larger egg! We know that sugar is bad for both our health, but what exactly does it do to our teeth? What better time than now to look at this all-important question.
Your mouth is full of many different bacteria, some good and some bad. Together, these bacteria create a unique ecosystem inside your mouth. There is a constant battle between bacteria which are essential to your oral health, and harmful bacteria which create acid that destroys your teeth. Until you experience problems such as tooth decay, it is likely that you are completely unaware of what is happening.
The harmful bacteria in your oral ecosystem feed on the sugar in your mouth and create acids. These then begin to attack the enamel surface of your teeth. It is this shiny protective layer that protects the more delicate inner layers of your teeth as well as the root. As the acids attack, a process known as demineralisation takes place. This is where acids actually cause the minerals to be removed from the enamel. Often, the first you know about tooth decay is when this outer layer is breached and you experience pain and discomfort.
While acids are attacking your teeth, your saliva is constantly working to fight acids and demineralisation. Saliva is rich in calcium and phosphates, which help to replace the minerals and repair the damage caused by acid. To help improve our chances of victory, we can also add another weapon into the equation – fluoride, a naturally occurring substance which also helps to repair and strengthen damaged enamel.
Once the harmful bacteria in your mouth has taken hold and started to seriously damage the outer layer of enamel, cavities begin to form. These can quickly progress once they reach the softer inner layers which offer much less resistance. If not treated quickly, this can cause pain, discomfort and ultimately loss of teeth.
If you have invested in dental treatment such as crowns or dental implants to replace previously damaged or missing teeth, it is still essential to avoid cavities in your remaining teeth in order to ensure the long term success of your treatment and make sure you keep on smiling with confidence.
The most effective way to prevent cavities is to limit your sugar intake and restrict when it is consumed. If you do eat sweet foods, it is best to consume them at the same time as meals, to reduce the amount of time that your teeth are exposed to acid. Try to maintain a healthy diet and avoid both sweet and savoury snacking between meals as much as possible.
A good oral hygiene regime is also essential. You should brush your teeth twice a day for at least two minutes, using fluoride toothpaste. You may wish to use a mouthwash as well. Just don’t rinse directly after brushing as this will wash away the fluoride protection.
Make sure you attend regular appointments with your dental team, who will be able to monitor the health of your teeth and gums. As well as this, they will offer personalised advice to help you keep your mouth in the best possible shape.
Saliva and fluoride both help to offset the effects of acid, but if there is a regular supply of new sugar their ability to fight off decay will be extremely limited. If you regularly consume sweets throughout the day the acid levels in your mouth are likely to be kept at a constant high-level meaning that ultimately bad bacteria wins the day.
Sweet snacks are not the only offenders either – starchy foods can also be bad news, as they tend stick to the teeth and help to create a perfect environment for acid to grow.
We don’t want to dampen your spirits this Easter – but we do encourage all our patients to be tooth aware and indulge responsibly. If you want to be tooth friendly, why not have a look online at some of the great sugar-free Easter ideas that are out there for you and your family to enjoy!
Here at the award-winning Stella Maris Dental Practice, our expert team of dentists and hygienists are always available to ensure you can enjoy a healthy smile every day. To book an appointment now or enquire about becoming a member, call today on 0121 588 4541.
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