Sugar spelled out on background of sugar

How Sugar Affects Teeth

Axel in front of the No Cavity Tree
Axel in front of the No Cavity Tree

Cavities need three things to thrive: teeth, bacteria, and sugar. As long as these three things exist, you have a perfect storm for decay.

And even if you can’t see it, there’s always a few bacteria hanging around your mouth, so usually, all it takes is a little sugar to kickstart the decaying process.

At Discovery Kids Pediatric Dentistry, we want our patients to get their names on our No Cavity Tree! We periodically draw names from the tree, so our cavity-free patients have the chance to win a prize, like a gift card to the movies.

That’s why we’re sharing some valuable knowledge on how sugar can cause cavities, and what you can do to prevent it.

How Cavities Form on Your Teeth

cold sodaMost of us know that sugar and candy can cause tooth decay, but did you know that fruit juices can be just as bad? Natural sugars are still sugars, and they affect your mouth the same way.

Within 20 seconds of consuming sugar, it combines with the bacteria hanging out in your mouth to form an acid that starts to damage your teeth. As time goes on, this wears away at the layers in your enamel, eventually resulting in a cavity.

Another factor at play is a drop in your mouth’s pH levels, meaning your saliva becomes more acidic. It takes your saliva about 20 minutes to return back to neutral, so every time you sip a sugary beverage or eat a piece of candy, the cycle resets.

How You Can Prevent Cavities from Sugary Foods

Of course, the best way to avoid cavities is to avoid sugary foods altogether, but we understand that this simply isn’t realistic. So let’s compromise! You can still enjoy sugary snacks and drinks, but only on special occasions, not every day.

Meanwhile, try some of our other tips that can help you avoid cavities:

  • When you indulge in your favorite sugary drink, use a straw. That will limit the contact your teeth have with the drink.
  • After you drink or eat something sugary, sip on a glass of water. That can help rinse off your teeth.
  • Never drink sugary drinks or eat sugary foods before bed. While you’re lying down, the liquids tend to pool in your mouth, extending the amount of time your teeth are exposed.
  • Brush your teeth after you consume a sugary treat–but wait at least an hour. This gives your enamel time to reharden and the pH in your mouth to return to neutral.