What effect does sugar have on teeth?

Sugar can be very harmful to your teeth, especially in large amounts. Even natural sugars in foods such as fruit can be harmful to your teeth in large and consistent doses. This is why it's important to regulate your diet and reduce your sugar intake as much as possible, to maintain the health of your teeth. Too much sugar can lead to cavities developing in your teeth and if left untreated, could potentially cause tooth loss. This is the most extreme case, however, and if you clean your teeth regularly using the proper techniques, you'll likely avoid some of the more serious cases of sugar damage.

The process behind sugar causing damage to your teeth is more in-depth than most people are aware. The sugar itself doesn't corrode your teeth, instead, it's responsible for feeding the harmful bacteria which then produces the acids that cause tooth decay. These acids then begin to corrode the teeth and can turn into harmful bacterial infections. It's these infections that essentially eat into the tooth, creating a cavity. As you can tell by the process, this isn't something that can happen instantly and if you've eaten sugary foods your teeth won't suffer these infections if you brush them properly.

The longer you leave your teeth without brushing them after eating sugary foods, however, the higher the chances are that this process has already begun and started to create harmful bacteria in your mouth. Professional advice and guidelines may be a little confusing, as dentists recommend that you wait around an hour to brush your teeth after eating sugary foods to prevent this sugar from being moved around the mouth when you brush. After an hour, the sugar is stuck to your teeth, in simple terms, meaning that when brushed, it can easily be removed from the teeth.

Which food and drinks should I avoid?

As a general rule, you should avoid food and drink with high sugar content. Sweets, chocolate, biscuits and cake are the main culprits as they often feature a large amount of sugar, alongside other unhealthy components. Fizzy pop, alcoholic drinks and some hot drinks also contain high amounts of sugar, especially cocktails. These types of drinks are often made with syrup, which is primarily sugar, creating an extremely unhealthy drink that can be very harmful to the teeth. Coca-Cola in particular is known for having a very high sugar content and if drunk regularly can very quickly lead to dental issues.

Sugar makes its way into almost every food - even fruit which contains natural sugars. While these are generally less corrosive than sugars you would find in chocolates, they're still unhealthy if left on your teeth. The best way to protect your teeth is to cut out as much sugar as possible from your diet and brush your teeth after consuming food or drink with high sugar content. Cutting your favourite drinks and snacks out of your diet can be difficult, but the best option would be to choose sugar-free drinks or substitute sugar for sweeteners where you can.

Sticky foods such as dried fruits and toffee can also be harmful to your teeth as they can stay on the teeth longer and be harder to remove. You should try and cut out these types of food from your diet or, if you do eat them, brush and floss afterwards to prevent them from causing long-lasting damage to your teeth.

Will sugar damage my tooth's enamel?

When sugar is left on the surface of your teeth, it feeds the bacteria which creates acid, which then eats away at your tooth's enamel. These harmful acids act as a counterproductive agent to the healthy minerals in your mouth. Fluoride is another mineral that promotes growth and will help rebuild your tooth's enamel when it becomes damaged. It's also capable of reversing any decay which has begun on your teeth. This can only happen if your teeth are clean and free from harmful acids. If your fluoride levels are low, you can use mouthwashes and toothpaste with this mineral which will then help rebuild your enamel.

If your teeth have become damaged, you don't solely have to rely on external products to provide you with the correct minerals, though these will give you a boost, your body's natural saliva will help bathe your teeth in minerals. Stimulating saliva is a good way to coat your teeth in vital minerals. The best way to do this is by firstly cutting out sugar and chewing sugar-free gum or vegetables that are high in fibre. This will get your saliva flowing and gradually help to rebuild your tooth's enamel. Other foods such as dairy products contain calcium and phosphates which help strengthen teeth, so you should try and incorporate these into your diet.

How do I protect my teeth from sugar?

The best way to protect your teeth from the effects of sugar is by managing your sugar intake. It's easy to advise against eating sugary foods but the reality is that lots of foods have high sugar content and they're nice as a treat. When eating sugary foods it's important to space them out and not pile too much sugar onto your teeth as possible. This will prevent acid from building up quickly before you're able to do anything about it. Brushing at the right times is also key to preventing sugar from building up on your teeth and beginning to decay your tooth. 

Chewing gum that contains Xylitol, which is a sweetener and used as an alternative to sugar, will help stimulate saliva in your mouth and prevent sugar build-up. Drinking milk will also help neutralise the build-up of harmful acids and help your teeth, especially if you're not able to brush your teeth soon after. Staying hydrated will also help ensure you regularly have enough saliva in your mouth. if you're dehydrated your body naturally won’t produce any saliva and therefore nothing to wash away the sugar collecting on your teeth. Using these methods in tandem with one another will give you the best chance to avoid tooth decay.

Visiting your dentist regularly is also important to ensure your teeth remain healthy and no serious damage has occurred. While you can brush your teeth and check them yourself, there are large parts of your mouth you won't be able to check yourself and you may not realise the seriousness of damage if you're unable to see. A dentist is able to give you in-depth feedback on exactly what the quality of your teeth is and give you important advice on what extra things you may need to do or what habits you may need to change to prevent serious damage to your teeth. The dentist may also be able to give you extremely helpful tools to use to keep your teeth clean. For example, they may provide you with a reusable floss stick that allows you to easily floss no matter where you are. 

There are also other things you can use to help make sure your teeth are as clean as possible such as tablets that coat your teeth and highlight the plaque in your mouth. This allows you to get an accurate view of just how well you are brushing your teeth and ensuring no damaging components are left on your teeth.

Are children's teeth at risk of damage from sugar?

When it comes to sugar damage, age is irrelevant, as the same process will occur where the sugar feeds the harmful bacteria, creating acids that begin to break down your enamel. Arguably, children are more susceptible to this due to their diet likely including more sweets and chocolate than adults and their brushing methods potentially being less effective. Although you may think children get a 'second chance' when their baby teeth fall out and get replaced by their adult teeth but decay can still lead to infection. If cavities occur in a child's teeth, this can lead to gum disease and potentially damage the adult teeth which are yet to come through.

Once the adult teeth have come through it's extremely important to look after them because, as you know, you only get one set of teeth. If decay occurs and is not treated, it can lead to severe damage to the tooth meaning it's unrepairable. Severely damaged teeth will need to be removed but that doesn't mean you have to live with a large gap between your teeth, we can help restore your smile. At Dental Excellence, we offer a dental implants service that, using modern technology and an incredible skill set possessed by our team, allows us to replace your damaged tooth with an artificial tooth. Choosing this treatment means we can completely restore your smile and even make it look better than before.

What treatments are available if my teeth are damaged?

Thanks to modern advancements in dental technology, we are able to offer a wide range of treatments from same-day smile makeovers, to long term dental replacements. Sugar damage can vary in levels of severity, with the most serious cases resulting in tooth loss. Other damage can cause discolouration or cavities. If the damage isn't severe and is limited to discolouration, you'd be eligible for a same-day smile makeover. At Dental Excellence, we offer both composite bonding treatments (which includes composite veneers) and porcelain veneers. Our state of the art technology and team with a high skill level allows us to carry out veneer treatments in a single day, meaning you can walk away with a perfect smile.

Veneers are a great choice if your teeth are only slightly damaged on the surface. This is because veneers consist of a layer of material laid over the teeth, in the case of composite veneers, and a thin layer of the tooth's enamel being removed and replaced with a veneer for porcelain veneers. This means that the majority of your natural tooth will remain untouched, but its appearance will be dramatically improved and whitened. Veneer treatments are extremely popular here at Dental Excellence, due to their pain-free application and quick treatment time.

If your teeth have become severely damaged or you have missing teeth, they can be replaced with an artificial tooth. We can do this using a titanium screw which fuses with your jaw and provides a point for the artificial tooth to be fixed too. Not only can a dental implant fully repair your smile, but it can also fill the gap where your tooth once was and prevent infections in your gum. With our techniques and sterile facility, we're able to safely carry out this procedure and while it may seem a little invasive, you'll never look back once you see the results.

Will sugar affect my gums?

It's not just your teeth that you need to look after as your gums are also at risk of infection. Often, this occurs as a result of tooth decay which has not been treated and has led to issues with your gums. The same bacteria and acids which cause tooth decay can also attack your gums and cause diseases such as gingivitis which can lead to receding gums. If you've eaten sugary foods and not properly cleaned your teeth or flossed, the sugar can build up in the gaps between your teeth and begin to harm your gums.

Just like with teeth, sugar can bind to your gums and cause disease along with other issues. If left untreated, these diseases can cause bleeding and sore gums. If you eat sugar regularly and expose your gums without cleaning properly, your gums can become much more sensitive, leading to sugar making your gums hurt. If paired with other harmful foods with highly acidic components, sugar can cause a lot of damage, which is why it's important to keep up good oral hygiene.

Will natural sugars also damage my teeth?

Sugar is in a lot of foods, whether it occurs naturally in fruits or if additional sugar is added to foods. Typically, added sugar which is found in chocolate and sweets is worse for your teeth, but that doesn't mean natural sugars won't harm your teeth. Natural sugars contribute to tooth decay in the same way added sugars would, by feeding the bacteria in your mouth which creates harmful acid. When it comes to sugar in food, it's important not to be naive and make sure you brush thoroughly, particularly after eating fruits and other natural sugar.

While fruits are healthy for you and there are minerals in them which can contribute to your health, the sugars in them can still damage your teeth. Other factors such as the colours of fruits can also have an effect on your teeth. For example, if you eat a lot of dark fruits such as blueberries or blackberries, the dark colour can discolour your teeth over long periods of time. By brushing and flossing after eating fruits or other foods which contain natural sugars you can greatly reduce the chance of those sugars harming your teeth or your teeth becoming discoloured.

Which foods will cause the most damage to my teeth?

With sugary foods, there are some which can be classed as more harmful to your teeth than others, but mostly because of their consistency rather than the potency of the sugar. High sugar content foods will generally be more harmful to your teeth, but so will foods that are sticky and don't break down quickly. Sweets that break down and dissolve quickly will spend less time in contact with your teeth and therefore do less damage than sweets such as toffee that can stick to your teeth. The longer this sugar stays on your teeth, the more it is able to feed bacteria that produces harmful acids. With toffee, lollipops and other sticky food, it's able to stick to your teeth even after you've finished eating, giving the sugars more time to cause harm.

Soft drinks are also extremely harmful to your teeth due to their high sugar content. If you do choose to drink soft drinks, it is recommended that you use a straw so that the liquid spends minimal time in contact with your teeth and with fewer teeth overall. If a large amount is consumed over a prolonged period of time, this can cause the most serious issues and the sugar will begin to build up on the tooth and can accelerate decay. Where possible, swapping sugar for sweeteners will help prevent decay on your teeth. Other drinks such as wine or other dark drinks can lead to tooth discolouration if regularly consumed.

Foods that are highly acidic will also contribute to tooth decay. Foods that are pickled and contain high amounts of vinegar will promote acid build-up which leads to decay. The acid is also able to cause staining on your teeth and long-term discolouration as a result of destroying your enamel. At Dental excellence, we've seen plenty of cases of this where clients have come to us for a solution. If your teeth have become discoloured as a result of this, we can offer a same-day treatment which will leave your teeth looking better than they ever did before. Our same-day smile makeover consists of a treatment such as composite bonding or veneers which can be applied in a swift but effective process, meaning you can leave the same day with a perfect smile.

What are my options if I lose teeth from sugar damage?

Losing teeth to sugar decay doesn't happen overnight, there is an entire process from the sugar entering your mouth and feeding the harmful bacteria to harmful acids being created and this damaging your teeth. Once the acid has created a cavity in your tooth, there will be time to get this treated or try and reverse the effects with healthy minerals. However, this isn't always the case and sometimes the damage can be quite severe, leading to tooth loss. This doesn't mean you have to live with a gap in your smile though, you do have options to achieve a perfect smile.

One of the treatments we offer which can solve this issue for you is dental implants. This treatment consists of inserting an artificial tooth into your mouth in place of the missing tooth. Not only does this fully repair your smile, but it also protects your mouth from harm by filling a space that would otherwise be susceptible to infection. This is your best option if you have lost teeth, however, if your teeth aren't severely damaged but you would like treatment to improve them, we do have less intensive treatments which can both whiten your teeth and make them appear straighter.

Need More Help?

Our team of experts are on hand to assist in making the smile of your dreams a reality. From our same-day smile makeovers to dental implants, veneers, and composite bonding, your new smile could be just a day away. Get in touch with the team today or book in for your consultation.