Why Sugar Isn’t the Cause of Tooth Decay

Dr. Ash Sagar

While sugar can lead to tooth decay, bacteria is sometimes the bigger culprit.

You probably call it a cavity. We call it tooth decay or dental caries. They’re basically names for a hole in your tooth.

You’ve probably heard that cavities are caused from eating sweets and consuming sugary drinks. While those will likely expand your waistline, there’s more to tooth decay than just consuming sugar.

The Kissing Disease?

It’s no surprise that your mouth is a bacterial jungle, home to 200 to 300 different species. Thankfully, only a limited number are the cause of dental cavities and periodontal disease.

In fact, most bacteria in our bodies are harmless. Many are even essential for digesting our food and other bodily processes. These are tiny organisms. Most measure a mere 1/500th the width of a human hair.

The bacteria that cause tooth decay are always looking for a new home. Consider the side effects of a passionate 10-second kiss with your sweetheart (pun intended). It can spread 80 million bacteria between mouths.

Say hello to Streptococcus mutans.

Attacking The Roots

Streptococcus mutans, also known as S mutans, along with lactobacilli, consume sugars and excrete lactic acid. It’s the lactic acid that is the real culprit when it comes to tooth decay.

S mutans and other bacteria reside on the dental biofilm (plaque) on tooth surfaces. The acid they produce from consuming sugar causes demineralisation, softening that area of the tooth, leading to a loss of calcium and phosphate from the enamel.

As the enamel on a tooth surface loses minerals, the weakened enamel collapses to form a cavity and the tooth is progressively destroyed. The acid can also attack the roots of teeth should they become exposed from gum recession.

Low Tech Solution

Thankfully, saliva acts to dilute and neutralise the acid. Aside from buffering plaque acids and halting the demineralisation of enamel, saliva provides a reservoir of minerals adjacent to the enamel from which it can remineralise and “heal” once the acids have been neutralised.

What can stop this bio-chemical reaction in its tracks?

Simple brushing and flossing. Together, these two home care procedures have been shown to be unusually effective at slowing, stopping and even reversing the effects of S mutans.

Relax knowing that if you ever get behind in this never-ending battle with these and other bacteria, we stand ready to help. A professional cleaning can restart the clock and at least temporarily disrupt the plans of S mutans.

Overdue? Book an appointment now for a thorough examination and a professional cleaning.

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