Sugar: Not So Sweet For Teeth

With Halloween upon us, its easy to be distracted by candy and sugary sweets. Indulging every now and then is fine, but a constant candy habit is bad for teeth – and not just for kids, adults too. Philadelphia dentist Dr. Pamela Doray sheds some light on the effects sugar has on the teeth and the hidden dangers you may not be aware of.

How Sugar Affects Teeth

We’re all aware that too much sugar is bad. Drinking one or two sodas a day can lead to an extra 10 or 15 pounds a year. Also, constant exposure to sugar and starches can cause tooth enamel to break down and wear away, making teeth more prone to cavity formation.

Adults are every bit as likely to get cavities as children. And adults are prone to other serious problems as well. “Patients risk serious damage to teeth and restorations such as crowns and veneers with regular use of sugared candies such as Tic Tac, BreathSavers, LifeSavers, etc.,” says Dr. Doray

Breath Mints = Bad Habit

Nick, a 60 year old patient of Dr. Doray, came to our Center City Philadelphia dental office with a serious problem. In just two years time, several of his dental crowns had begun to fail. Dr. Doray detected decay along the margins where the crown met the natural tooth.

After an examination and consultation with the patient, Dr. Doray determined that a bad habit was causing the problem. Nick was constantly sucking on sugary mints. “The concentrated and frequent sugar dosage to the teeth for someone who uses candies several times a day is significant,” reports Dr. Doray. This prolonged use of seemingly harmless breath mints had caused damage to Nick’s teeth, making his dental work to break down.

Kicking the Habit

It can be very difficult for someone to drop the habit of using candies every day. Using such candies is often a coping mechanism for stress or boredom. If eliminating the habit is not possible, Dr. Doray recommends switching to a sugar-free candy, such as those offered in her reception room. “Patients get the benefit of having something to suck on without causing damage to their teeth,” says Dr. Doray, adding that the candies taste just as good as sugared candies and most people don’t miss their old favorites.

What To Avoid

Sugar is in every human’s diet and is unavoidable. Sugar hides in seemingly safe places, though, like breath mints, flavored waters and even fruit. You can limit your exposure to sugar by avoiding the following:

  • Tic-Tac’s
  • BreathSavers
  • LifeSavers
  • Sugared Gums
  • Soda
  • Sports Drinks
  • Flavored Waters

Healthy Alternatives

Dr. Doray recommends the following alternatives to keep teeth and gums healthy:

Water: Drinking water throughout the day is a great idea for your overall health and the health of your mouth. Water helps to wash away bacteria, sugar and starches that form on teeth. Unlike sodas or sports drinks, water doesn’t attack tooth enamel or stick with you after the beverage is gone.

Sugar-free Gum: Chewing gum is a healthy habit, as long as it’s sugar-free. When selecting a chewing gum, check the label for the ADA seal. Most popular brands like Orbit are ADA approved and can help the health of your mouth. Chewing sugar-free gum stimulates saliva production which helps to neutralize acids caused by bacteria. Gum can also help to remove food debris on the surface of and in between teeth.

Fresh Fruits: Eating fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts is a great way to get your sugar fix and keep teeth healthy. Xylitol is a natural sugar found in trees, fruits and vegetables, thought to fight cavities by interacting with the bacteria found in the mouth.

Brush and Floss: Of course, one of the most important steps is to take good care of your teeth by brushing and flossing on a daily basis. Dr. Doray recommends that you brush at least two times per day and floss once daily.