By Last Updated: March 1, 2024

If you have a sweet tooth, you may have heard from many people that it can be terrible for your teeth. After all, it is a known fact that excessive consumption of sugar is the leading cause of tooth decay.

But did you know that sugar does not directly cause tooth decay? The bacteria in your mouth feeding on sugars is what mainly causes tooth decay.

Carry on reading to understand more about sugars and how they affect your oral health.

Understanding Oral Health

The teeth are protected by the hardest substance in the body called the enamel. This is the outer layer of the tooth and it serves as a barrier that protects the tooth from physical, chemical, and thermal forces. Keeping the enamel intact is one of the key factors in maintaining good oral health.

However, many things can make the enamel vulnerable and that is mainly bacteria.

The mouth naturally houses bacteria, both beneficial and harmful. In good numbers, healthy bacteria are crucial to maintaining the oral ecosystem. However, if oral health is neglected and bad bacteria are allowed to thrive, they can be very harmful to your teeth. They attack the enamel and cause demineralization, eventually leading to decay and cavities.

Sugar and Tooth Decay

But how exactly does bacteria cause tooth decay? Sugars and starches are the main culprits. Bad bacteria mainly feed on sugars. Then, they produce acid in the mouth. These acids attack the tooth enamel, weakening and eventually destroying them. Without proper intervention, acids will continue to demineralize the teeth. If left to progress, holes or decay on the teeth will begin to appear.

Treating tooth decay and remineralizing the enamel is not just dependent on sugar intake. While revisiting your dietary habits can help with oral health, reinforcing the enamel with fluoride and good oral hygiene are also important.

Tips to Prevent Teeth Damage with Sugar Intake

When you expose your teeth to sugars and acids more frequently, tooth decay can definitely be a problem. But, if you have a sweet tooth and cannot help your sugar intake, here are some tips that can help you decrease your potential for tooth decay:

  • Increase saliva production

This may sound weird, but saliva actually helps reverse demineralization. Saliva contains minerals like calcium and phosphate which can naturally repair the tooth. It also washes away bacteria and food debris to prevent build-up which can damage the tooth.

You can encourage saliva production by chewing sugar-free gum, using over-the-counter artificial saliva products, or chewing fibrous fruits and vegetables.

  • Teas can also help

Adding green and black tea to your diet is a good way to maintain the oral ecosystem. They help suppress harmful bacteria to keep your oral health in check.

  • Fluoride is key!

Fluoride can be found not just in your oral care such as your toothpaste and mouthwash. Fluoridated water is also available in your water supply. In Canada, the recommended amount of fluoride in drinking water for communities is 0.7 mg/L. This can help with maintaining good fluoride levels to make the teeth resistant to acids from bacteria.

  • Eat a balanced diet

Foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals such as calcium help maintain good oral hygiene. Integrate dairy into your diet as these are calcium-fortified and can strengthen your teeth.

Oral Hygiene Practices

Aside from these tips, your oral hygiene is also something you should take seriously. Good oral hygiene maintains ideal oral health by preventing dental diseases such as tooth decay, bad breath, and infections.

  • Brush your teeth properly

It is recommended that you brush your teeth at least twice a day. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush with fluoride-rich toothpaste. This will help remove plaque and reduce your risk of tooth decay. 

  • Do not forget to floss

Flossing removes plaque and food particles between your teeth and underneath your gumline. This is an essential part of your routine because it cleans areas that cannot be reached by toothbrushing alone. Just make sure to curve the thread against your tooth for proper cleaning.

  • Use an antibacterial mouthwash

After you brush and floss, swish an antibacterial mouthwash for at least 30 seconds. This improves gum health and freshens the breath.

  • Visit your dentist regularly

Routine dental visits for check-ups and teeth cleaning should be done every 6 months. For patients with existing gum disease, your dentist may recommend seeing you more often. Early diagnosis of dental concerns prevents unnecessary treatments down the road.

Healthy Alternatives to Candy

For all you sweet treat lovers, here are some healthier alternatives that you can include in your grocery list to help you stick to a balanced and cavity-free diet:

  • Fresh fruits
  • Dried or frozen fruits
  • Fruit-based ice cream (or those integrated with nut butter, honey, or coconut milk)
  • Yogurt
  • Energy balls
  • Fruit and veggie chips
  • Nuts
  • Dark chocolate chips and treats
  • Trail mix
  • Veggie-based (such as chickpeas) cookie dough
  • Fruit-based pudding
  • Baked fruits
  • Homemade gummies

With plenty of delicious, healthy treats that can replace candy in your diet, it is definitely easier to keep watch of your calories and possible cavities.

Is Candy Really Bad For Your Teeth? — The Bottomline

Sugar does not directly cause tooth decay, but it largely contributes to it. So, make sure to brush your teeth regularly and practice good oral care to reduce your risk of tooth decay.

As a conclusion, your diet can play a big role in keeping your teeth cavity-free. But that alone does not get the job done. Be mindful of your oral health with proper hygiene practices and a balanced diet and make sure to visit your dentist often to maintain a healthy and happy smile.