“Don’t eat sweets, or your teeth will all rot out” is a phrase you likely heard as a child. If you’re a parent, you may have even said it. In reality, the damage that eating too much sugar can do to teeth should make everyone listen to that sage advice.
Did you know your mouth is full of bacteria? It’s true. Some are good for the inside of your mouth. Others. Not so much. The harmful bacteria feed on the sugar and carbohydrates, also known as starches, that you eat, and together, they create acids that can turn into bacterial infections. Bacterial infections can do two things. First, they can destroy the enamel (shiny outer layer of your tooth). Next, if left untreated, those bacterial infections will turn into cavities. They go into the deeper layers of your tooth, creating a hole, causing pain and possible tooth loss.
Your teeth are always susceptible to cavity making acids. However, this damage can be reversed by minerals. Minerals come from the enamel of your teeth and your saliva through a process called remineralization. It generates minerals like calcium and phosphates, both of which are good for strengthening teeth. Fluoride is another mineral that comes into play and also helps repair your weakened enamel. It’s a great process, but it can only do so much. To keep your teeth healthy, you have to limit your sugar intake. That includes starches.
Cutting down on sugar is a good start. Here are some other ways to promote remineralization and improve the enamel of your teeth. Stimulate your saliva flow by chewing sugarless gum and eat high-fiber veggies and fruits. It helps to bathe your teeth in minerals. Calcium and phosphates strengthen teeth, so keep dairy products in your diet. Green and black teas contain substances that help suppress harmful oral bacteria.
Finally, fluoride is a mineral that prevents tooth decay and reverses it in its early stages, according to the American Dental Association (ADA). Drink plenty of fluoridated water and brush regularly with an ADA-approved fluoride toothpaste. The ADA also recommends professional fluoride treatments from a dentist.
Ultimately, be mindful of your sugar intake, and teach your kids to be as well. The Filipino diet is known to be on the sweet side, and is known to be carbohydrate-heavy (lots and lots of rice!). That's why it's good to establish good oral habits as early as you can. When you eat sugar, brush afterward with fluoride toothpaste, and make sure you also eat the healthy foods that strengthen your teeth. Keep up with your regular dental visits for good measure. Then, you can enjoy your sweet life, only with fewer cavities.