Everyone knows that sugar and teeth are a bad combination, but you may have wondered why these two things go hand-in-hand. sugary substances on teethAfter all, sugar itself isn’t damaging to teeth.

How Cavities Form

Your mouth is full of bacteria. While many of them are beneficial, some of them are not. There are several types of bacteria that live in your mouth that are harmful to your teeth, like streptococcus mutans and lactobacillus. These types of bacteria create acids that destroy tooth enamel.

Tooth enamel is the shiny, protective layer on the outside of your teeth. Acids leech minerals from the enamel via demineralization. When the enamel is damaged, it starts to create a cavity. The softer tissue underneath the tooth is then at risk of infection and, if left untreated and enough of your tooth starts to die, you can end up with tooth pain, or needing a root canal or even to get the tooth removed.

Those bacteria? They thrive on sugar. The more sugar they get, the more acid they produce, and the more damage your teeth endure.

Reminerlization of Tooth Enamel

Your body can attempt to undo the damage before it gets too bad. That’s why eating sugar doesn’t immediately lead to cavities. Your saliva remineralizes your teeth and washes bacteria away. Saliva contains minerals like calcium and phosphates, which can help rebuild tooth enamel. Flouride is another mineral that can help repair weakened enamel, which is why your dentist uses it.

Unfortunately, there’s only so much your saliva can do to protect your teeth. If it can’t stay on top of the damage, or if your body isn’t making enough saliva for any of several reasons, you won’t be able to keep your teeth protected from this process and you will end up with cavities.

There are other things you can do to help your body repair itself though. You can limit sugar and starch intake so your body doesn’t have to work so hard to protect itself. You can also stimulate saliva flow by chewing sugarless gum and eating fibrous fruits and vegetables. You can eat products that contain calcium and phosphates to help strengthen your teeth directly and indirectly. Many of these types of workarounds can boost your body to help protect your teeth, and they’re healthier options than sugary treats.

If you’re dealing with issues with tooth decay, you might want to look at your diet to see what you can change to help protect your teeth. You should obviously follow a good oral hygiene routine, as well as cutting back on sugars and starches or avoiding snacking on them throughout the day. Remember to not brush your teeth for at least a half hour after eating to prevent other types of damage to your enamel from acidity while your saliva repairs it.

You can also drink green or black tea. They contain substances that help suppress harmful oral bacteria. Adding a few cups to your daily routine, without sugar, can help keep your mouth cavity-free.

You might also want to consider getting a mouthwash containing fluoride if you’re running into issues with cavities. Regular appointments with the dentist will also help catch problems before they’re serious, and dentists often offer professional fluoride treatments to help boost your protection.

Doing these things together, along with the recommendations of your dentist, will help you win the fight against tooth decay.