Why is sugar bad for your teeth?


Everyone knows that too much sugar is bad for your teeth, but do you know why? We’ve rounded up a few of key facts you need to know. So before you tuck into that slice of cake, have a think about what damage you could be doing to your teeth!

Bacteria and acid

The mouth is full of bacteria - some of which is good, friendly bacteria, and some of which is bad for your teeth. This harmful bacteria feeds on sugar, so the more sugar you consume, the easier it is for these bacteria to multiply. This causes dental plaque to form, creating acid which eats away at tooth enamel. Once the acids have damaged the shiny, protective outer layer of your tooth enamel, you’ll be at risk of developing cavities and tooth decay.

A constant battle

It’s practically impossible to consume zero sugar (it’s in lots of healthy things like fruit, as well as sweets and cake!), so there’s a constant battle going on in your mouth. The bacteria will thrive after you eat sugar, but the damage done by the acid is always being reversed. Your saliva contains minerals which help repair the teeth through a natural process called remineralisation, and fluoride toothpaste can also help.

However, this process can only go so far - if you’re consuming too much sugar on a daily basis, your teeth will struggle to repair themselves. A repeated cycle of acid attacks can weaken tooth enamel, leading to a problem that’s no so easy to reverse.

Watch your sugar intake

If you’re concerned about developing cavities from consuming too much sugar, keep an eye on your sugar intake. The actual amount of sugar you consume isn’t as important as you might think - but the frequency is key, so avoid snacking on sugary things several times throughout the day! This will expose your teeth to acid attacks on lots of different occasions, rather than - for example - once during dessert after dinner.

As well as sugary snacks like biscuits, chocolate, sweets and even crisps, many drinks also contain a lot of sugar. Fizzy drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks, fruit juices, alcohol and smoothies all contain high levels of sugar and acids, making it easy for the bad bacteria to multiply in your mouth.

How do you prevent sugar damage?

Firstly, cut down on how much sugar you consume. Not only will this benefit your teeth, you’ll also feel much healthier overall! Make sure you have a balanced diet with plenty of vegetables, whole grains, protein and calcium.

There’s nothing wrong with a bit of sugar in moderation, but try not to snack on sugary things all the time. Instead, have them with your meals so the amount of time your teeth are exposed to sugar throughout the day is reduced. Snack on crunchy fruit and veggie like celery, cucumber and apples which will help increase saliva production, reducing the effects of acid in your mouth.

When you do have something sugary, be sure to rinse your mouth afterwards with water. This helps to flush the acid out and get rid of any remaining sugar, as well as encouraging saliva production. You can also produce more saliva by chewing sugar-free gum.

Finally, remember to practice good oral hygiene. Always brush your teeth twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste - we’d recommend once in the morning and once in the evening, for two minutes each time. You should also use mouthwash at one other point during the day - after lunch is a good time for this.

Need some more advice on cutting down on sugar and battling the effects of tooth decay? Get in touch with our friendly team of Edinburgh dentists to book in for a check-up appointment!