By Dr. Saleh Al-Daghreer on Oct 23 2019Everyone knows sugar is harmful to our teeth and can lead to serious problems but few are aware of how it happens. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not always chocolate bars and candy causing your cavities.
What Causes Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay begins and ends with what we put into our mouth. Many people associate cavities with candy bars and chocolate, though that isn’t always the case. Consuming high quantities of sugar can happen through drinks even more frequently than food.
- Energy Drinks: These drinks have been proven to be very harmful to your teeth, starting with your tooth enamel. Tooth enamel is the hard outer layer of your teeth that protects against tooth decay. It is considered the hardest mineral substance in your body, even stronger than bone but the hardest substance in the human body dissolves in these highly acidic drinks. Energy drinks, with a pH of roughly 3.2, are almost as acidic as battery acid!
2. Gum: Bubblegum is something you or your teen could be consuming a lot of, not knowing the harm it is doing to your teeth. You’re not only satisfying your sweet tooth with this sugary treat but you’re also making the sugar loving bacteria in your mouth, very happy! Unfortunately these bacteria's are fueled by sugar to produce acids that weaken enamel and cause cavities. If you crave the chew but don’t want the cavities, try sugar free gum as a healthy alternative.
3. Dried Fruit: It is a common misconception that dried fruits are a healthy snack. Any food that is sticky, like these fruits, cling to your teeth leaving behind large traces of sugar. Fresh fruit are less concentrated with sugar making them the healthier option. Always spend a little extra time brushing after consuming sticky foods to ensure there are no traces of food left between the teeth to prevent cavities!
4. Carbonated Drinks: Little to no good comes from carbonated drinks, we all know that. Carbonated sodas enable plaque to produce more acid to attack tooth enamel which covers your teeth in acid. Studies have shown that consuming large quantities of these drinks could be as harmful to your teeth as using crack cocaine. It is important to note that you are not supposed to brush your teeth right after consumption where as it could hasten decay. It’s a good idea to stay away from carbonated drinks all together!
5. Bread: Many people don’t associate bread with being a sugary food, but it is! Your saliva breaks down starches into sugar while you chew your bread, it then turns into a paste-like substance which can get stuck between your teeth and cause cavities. Next time you take a stroll down the bread aisle, opt for a whole wheat bread. These types of bread contain less added sugars making them the healthier option for your teeth.
Is Tooth Decay Preventable?YES! Tooth Decay IS preventable. The main cause of tooth decay is acid. When food is left on your teeth, the bacteria that lives in your mouth will feast and turn the sugars into acids which can cause serious damage to your teeth. Left untreated, damages like cavities can lead to infection and tooth loss. There are a number of simple steps you can follow to greatly reduce the risk of decaying teeth.
- Consume soft drinks through straws so your teeth don’t come into direct contact with the sugar.
- Drink water after consuming sugary food or drink.
- Cut back on sugar intake.
- Brush twice daily and floss.
Acid constantly attacks your teeth but that doesn’t mean tooth decay happens all at once. There are other elements in our mouth that strengthen our teeth and try to stop tooth decay from happening, like saliva. Here are the four stages your teeth go through before tooth decay sets in.
Stage one: Sensitive parts on your teeth could be an indication of an already decayed tooth. Brushing your teeth twice daily and flossing could help prevent the decay from turning into a cavity.
Stage Two: Tooth decay has gone through the hard surface layer officially causing a cavity.
Stage Three: Tooth decay has gotten to the softer layer of the tooth, which will result in rapid growth of the decay often causing discomfort
Stage Four: If the cavity remains untreated at this stage, more serious and sometimes life threatening complications can occur like an abscess tooth.
What to Do When a Dental Emergency Occurs
Significant pain in the teeth and gums could be an indication of a dental emergency and should not be ignored. If you find your tooth or any part of your mouth to be causing you pain, complete a thorough self examination and look for anything out of the ordinary. Here are some things you might find:
Swelling on the gum: If you come to find a predominantly swollen surface on your gum (sometimes above a tooth) this could be an indication of a dental abscess. The swelling is due to a pocket of puss that has been formed by an infection at the base of your tooth. Contact your dentist immediately whereas your dental abscess will have to be drained through a root canal procedure and in some cases, you may need to have your tooth extracted.
Home Care: It is very important to seek medical attention right away. However, If you are unable to see a dentist follow these steps to remain comfortable.
- Rinse your mouth with warm water
- Use dental floss to remove any lodged food
- Apply a cold compress to the outside of your mouth
- Never put aspirin or any painkiller near the aching tooth because it may burn the gum tissue.
A Black Tooth: Your teeth are made out of three parts, the enamel, dentin and the pulp. When a nerve in the pulp is dead or dying it will no longer have blood flowing to it, resulting in a dead tooth. The dead tooth will turn black and eventually fall out on its own. However, waiting for this to occur could be dangerous and cause complications to your other teeth and jaw. If you notice you have a dead tooth, it is important to contact your dentist right away whereas a root canal or extraction will have to take place immediately. If you have a dead tooth, here are some symptoms you may be expercining:
- A bad taste in your mouth
- Bad breath
- Swelling on the gums
- Change in tooth color
The best way to prevent a dead tooth is to have a good oral health care routine as well as avoiding sugary food and drinks.
How Does My Oral health Affect My Mental Health?
Many people are surprised to know your oral health plays a role in your mental health. The correlation between the two begins with poor mental health which then causes you to neglect your oral health or vise versa. Studies have linked having poor oral hygiene to social anxiety and self-esteem issues which can also lead to anxiety surrounding the dentist, which results in worsening conditions. Here are some of the most common ways poor mental health can negatively impact your teeth.
- Diet: If your mental health is not up to par, chances are you're not making strides to take care of your body either. Fueling your body with sugary, high fat foods will cause major damage to your teeth if not taken care of properly.
- Embarrassment: Not taking care of your teeth can cause some very undesirable side effects such as bad breath and yellow teeth. These physical attributes could cause embarrassment when being placed in a social setting which could lead to an anxiety or panic attack.
- Body Dysmorphia: Between 35% and 38% of people who suffer from eating disorders like Bulimia, often suffer from tooth erosion due to gastric acid.
Keep Your Smile Healthy
In conclusion, our teeth do a lot more than we give them credit for. Taking care of our teeth seems like a small ask considering everything they do for us! It is crucial not only for your smile but for the overall well being of your body, you keep your oral hygiene a priority. Follow these oral hygiene tips for a healthy smile.
- Brush and Floss twice daily
- Schedule routine check ups with your dentist/orthodontist
- Stay away from foods and drinks that are high in sugar
- Maintain a healthy diet