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Does Sugar Alone Cause Tooth Decay?

11 Nov

Does Sugar Alone Cause Tooth Decay?

We all know that sugar causes cavities.  From the time we were children we have heard, “Candy Causes Your Teeth To Rot!” And, while this is true, there is a little more to it than that.  I like to explain it like this:

“Every time we eat ANYTHING our mouth becomes a more acidic place.  When there is acid on our teeth they begin to decay.  The good news is, as soon as we stop eating, our saliva washes the acid, sugar and some bacteria down into our stomach, and restrengthens our teeth.”

That sounds simple enough.  However, if we continue to…snack….sip juice…..drink soda, our saliva isn’t able to rinse the acid away.  When this happens, the bacteria are able to produce more acid and damage our teeth.  This is harmful for all teeth, but even more so for baby teeth because the enamel (the outer layer of tooth) is much thinner on baby teeth than adult teeth.

So, how do you prevent the excessive presence of acid in your child’s mouth?  Take a look at this graph.  Any time that the line is in the red area the teeth are breaking down from acid.

Mouth pH graphic

From this graph, we can see the time that teeth are breaking down the most is when we have long periods of eating or drinking.  In this example, decay can be prevented by 2 simple changes:

  1. Replace the juice in the sippy cup with water and only have juice at a meal time
  2. Replace the milk in the bottle at night with only water.

These two small changes can make the difference between a child who has many cavities and one that doesn’t have any.

As parents we all want the best for our kids.  One amazing gift that we can give our children is beautiful, healthy teeth and gums.  I never want to be like Willy Wonka’s father, (If you don’t remember, he was a dentist)  who wouldn’t let Willy have any candy.  We all know how that turned out….Willy opened a chocolate factory so he could have as much candy as he wanted.  This same philosophy applies here. There are times and places in which sugars are less harmful to teeth than others.  So our recommendations are that children decrease the amount of time that they have sweet foods and drinks by only consuming those sweets at mealtimes.


Let us know what you think?

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