Dr Mihir Shah: How to protect your teeth from sugar

This Sugar Free September we’ve been talking a lot about the effect sugar can have on the body and mind, but we think it’s time we talked a little more about teeth. We’ve been chatting to our dentist friend Mihir, head dentist at Battersea Park Dental, who has shared a little bit more about how to protect teeth from the effects of sugar. Have a read below and be prepared to impress your dentist on your next visit.

It’s all about routine

We are constantly being tempted by chocolates, sweets, fizzy drinks and other sugary snacks wherever we go. Even the supposedly ‘sugar-free checkouts’ at your local supermarket are laden with treats full of sugar. It’s impossible and unreasonable to completely cut sugar out of our diet, so how do we protect our teeth? If we look at the way sugar causes tooth decay, we can implement simple changes to our daily routine to help reduce the impact.

How does sugar actually cause tooth decay?

Yes, sugar causes cavities, however sugar alone cannot cause tooth decay. It needs two other important parts – bacteria and time. Our mouths are full of bacteria – some good, some harmful. The harmful bacteria use sugar and/or starch as fuel and create a strong acid that weakens our enamel. This is called demineralisation. Fortunately, our enamel is incredible and, given time, can remineralise. If our enamel does not have enough time to repair, cavities and decay begin to form. Once that process has started, it can spread through a tooth at a rapid rate.

Decay causing bacteria are ubiquitous in everyone’s mouth, and unfortunately cannot be removed. We therefore must concentrate on the factors we can change – sugar and time.

Why time is so important

It is a myth that the amount of sugar in your diet relates to the likelihood you will develop cavities. It is in fact the amount of time the sugar is in your mouth. Reducing the number of times in the day you consume something with sugar (or ‘sugar attacks’) will dramatically reduce your risk of developing cavities. Avoid ‘grazing’ between meals. Each time you have even the smallest snack, it counts as a sugar attack. Try sticking to 5-7 sugar attacks in the day (breakfast, lunch, dinner and two other times). Plus, avoid foods that take longer to eat (like hard-boiled sweets or lollipops) or those that stick to your teeth (toffees and chewy sweets).

How do different types of sugar affect your teeth?

Foods contain a variety of different types of sugars. Sweets and chocolate contain sugars that are far more harmful to your teeth than fruits. When choosing a treat, try healthy snacks such as fruits and cheese. Do your research – check the packaging for the amount of sugar in a snack (anything over 10g of added sugar is best to steer clear of).

How gum can help

On average, it takes 20 minutes for our mouths to neutralise the acid caused by a sugar attack. A great way to reduce this time is to use sugar-free chewing gum after each meal. This will help remineralise our teeth quicker. Peppersmith gum also contain a higher concentration of xylitol, which further helps the remineralisation process.

Once we adapt our routine slightly using these tips, we can still enjoy treats (in moderation of course) knowing our teeth are protected from tooth decay.

 

The post Dr Mihir Shah: How to protect your teeth from sugar appeared first on Peppersmith.

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