How Sugar Causes Cavities

Everyone has heard that sugar is bad for teeth and is a main cause of cavities. It is not often explained how sugar causes the damage. It is hard to avoid sugar because it is an ingredient in most foods and is becoming more common as more and more foods are processed and preserved to last longer. While it may be a hard task to do, it is important to know why you should avoid sugar to help protect your teeth.   Cavities are formed when plaque covers a tooth. Plaque is caused by bacteria that feed on the different proteins and other materials that enter the mouth. The bacteria bind to the teeth and forms plaque over the tooth. Plaque on the teeth produces acid as it eat sugar, which is why you should avoid sugar, and damages the enamel on the outside of the tooth. The acid produced by the plaque weakens the enamel and the surface of the tooth becomes porous. After a while, the acid works at the holes in the tooth making them bigger until a cavity forms.   Sugar is the power behind the cavities. The bacteria that joins together to form plaque use sugar for energy. The more sugar consumed the worse the plaque is and the more damage is done to the tooth. The plaque gets thicker and grows faster the more sugar is present in the mouth. Some bacteria take the sugar and use it to form a paste-like plaque that binds even more securely to the surface of the tooth and makes it harder to be washed away. Because the plaque uses sugar as its power, it can create bigger, worse cavities when sugar is present and this is why you should avoid sugar as much as possible.   There are two forms of sugar that causes problems, regular sugar and cooked starches that are found in bread, potato chips, biscuits and milk. While sugar is sugar and fuels the bacteria in the same way, cooked starches stay in the mouth longer than regular straight sugar. Bacteria become more active after eating whether it is a small snack or a full meal so frequent eating is detrimental to teeth. The foods that are eaten are also a big factor in the severity of cavities. Sticky foods, like chocolates, taffy and gummy candies, stay on the teeth longer and do more damage. It is these factors for why you should avoid sugar to help keep your teeth cavity free.

Dr. Hazim is a member of the American Dental Association and the Texas Dental Association. A graduate of Loyola University, Dr. Hazim has undergone continuing education at the Pankey Institute and has received accreditation from the Western Regional Examining Board.

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