Common medical questions and answers through blogs and articles

Is Sugar Bad for Teeth?

A popular misconception is that candy rots your teeth, but don’t blame candy for your cavities.  Beverages like soda pop or fruit juices also wreak havoc with teeth, causing tooth decay.  Below, are the causes for tooth decay, so you can be an informed consumer going forward and help preserve those pearly whites.

Candy is bad

That chewy candy bar, pulled taffy or a Fall apple dipped in red candy or caramel coating, all spell doom for your teeth.  In fact, a good rule of thumb is that the stickier the candy, the worse it tends to be for the teeth.  Those chewy goodies like gummy tidbits, taffy or caramels not only could pull out your cavities, but their sticky goodness seeps between the teeth allowing mouth bacteria to adhere to the deposited sugar.  The bacteria will dissolve the protective hard enamel of the teeth, eventually causing cavities.  If you add the element of “sour or tangy” to the mix, they carry even more erosive acid, thus adding an extra blow to tooth enamel.

Don’t feel unscathed by tooth decay if sticky or sour candy is not your favorite.  Hard candy is also a culprit of tooth decay, because soft candies are chewed quickly, and only the residual bacteria is left, but, hard candy dissolves much more slowly, all the while surrounding your mouth with more harmful acid.  Many hard candies feature citrus-y flavors, so there is a double-whammy for the teeth, citric acid, which will attack tooth enamel even more vehemently.

While we enjoy candy, not only will it eventually cause tooth decay, but soft and chewy candies might pull out your fillings and hard candy may chip your teeth if crunched down the wrong way.

Drinking sugary beverages

Drinking sugary fruit juices is not good for your teeth, no matter how much that beverage is touted for what it does for your overall health.  Natural fruit juices, while delicious, are full of sugar, and, if you must imbibe, do yourself a favor and water down the straight juice with water.

As to soda, both the sugar-free and regular soft drinks help create tooth decay.  It is not the actual sugar that is found in soda, but the acids, like citric and phosphoric acid, found in carbonated soft drinks that harm teeth more than the sugar content.  If consumed in large enough quantities, the acid in soda will erode the enamel in your teeth.

If soda is your downfall, don’t despair.  You don’t have to go “cold turkey” … if you cannot do without your soda fix, don’t sip it throughout the day, but only drink that beverage while eating a meal.  The food will help to neutralize the acid and your teeth’s exposure to the acidic properties of the soda are of a shorter duration.

Sports drinks and energy drinks are also a no-no for the same reason as soda.  They are also acidic with the same enamel-eroding properties found in soft drinks.

So, now you are wondering what else you could enjoy for a post-workout beverage of choice, if soda and sports drinks are a no-no?  How about chocolate or strawberry milk?  A few years ago, the internet was full of the benefits of quenching your thirst after a workout with chocolate milk.  Or, what if you have a fussy child who turns their nose up at white milk, but loves chocolate or strawberry milk?  Flavored milk is beneficial for its protein and calcium properties, but the sugar ratio to those nutrients still deem it the same as candy.  The only plus for flavored milk is it is less problematic than soda or a sports drink, as it has no acidic content, which is a pathway to tooth enamel erosion.

So, good ol’ water is your safest bet to accompany your meals or to slake your thirst, but … don’t go for those flavored seltzer waters as they may contain citric acid, which, also tends to break down the good enamel in your teeth over time.

A sweet tooth

As a nation, we just don’t have enough leisure time as it is, without having to make all food and beverages ourselves to help keep sugar or sodium levels down.  Eating plain Greek yogurt without any fruit or flavors will reduce your sugar content and that’s good for your teeth.  Greek yogurt has less sugar than other yogurt types.  Of course, you could make your own yogurt, but that’s a lot of work.  Likewise foregoing canned soups that are laden with sodium, and making a pot of your own soup is cheaper and you can control the ingredients … that is, if you have the time and inclination to do so.

If you have a sweet tooth, it is hard to stop eating sugary treats.  But, there is a pleasant alternative and that is to consume more fruit.  Fructose in the fruit will give you a natural sugar high.

If you follow a healthy diet, you are no doubt already eating plenty of fruits and veggies.  That colorful produce is helping to promote a healthy body and doing your teeth a world of good.

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