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Does Sugar Really Cause Cavities?

Most people have grown up hearing that sugar will rot their teeth. But the truth is, a sugar-laden diet will certainly help promote tooth decay, but the sweet stuff isn’t solely responsible for cavities.

Sugar and Tooth Decay

A tooth cavity will form when mouth bacteria digest carb or sugar debris lingering on enamel. Eating refined sugars found in candy, cookies and other sweet treats will leave this type of residue, but so will healthy food choices like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

The carb digestion process causes the bacteria to produce acid that mixes with saliva and forms harmful teeth plaque.

Teeth Plaque

Plaque is the culprit responsible for causing tooth decay and cavities. The sticky substance adheres to teeth and builds up after every meal. If it isn’t removed often, it can destroy the protective teeth enamel producing tiny openings in the hard surface. These holes are the beginning stage of a tooth cavity.

Tooth Cavity

If left untreated, these tiny holes in the outer coating can get bigger and cause a lot of tooth damage. The plaque acid will continue to eat through the tooth layers, from the enamel to the dentin, all the way to the pulp, where the nerves and blood vessels are housed. A tooth cavity that is left to travel to the pulp, may also reach the supporting bone. Pain, sensitivity, and abscesses may result.

Oral Hygiene

Sugar is only one of many carbohydrates that can wreak havoc on your oral health and earn you a dentist visit. But that doesn’t mean you need to omit all your favorite treats from daily life forever. You can remain diligent about dental care and make wise choices.

Food items such as taffy, hard candies, dried fruits, and cereals can get stuck deep in the crevices and grooves of your back teeth where plaque can hide. Healthy options like yogurt and fruit are less likely to lead to plaque buildup because saliva washes away the residue easily.

In addition, the way you eat is just as important to your dental health as what you eat. For example, if you nurse a sugary soft drink, drinking it slowly throughout the day, you will do more tooth damage then if you chugged down a bottle of soda. The plaque acid created by sipping sweet carbonated drinks lingers in your mouth for about 30 minutes after you swallow. Therefore, each time to take another sip, you restart the clock and increase your risk of developing tooth decay.

In addition to sugars, carbonated drinks contain acids that can break down enamel and cause cavities. Even healthy high-acid foods, like certain fruits, can lead to erosion and tooth decay if you don’t practice good oral hygiene habits.