The Challenges of Dentistry Part 2

In my last blog I started talking about tooth decay. You’ll remember I said many things are needed to allow decay to happen.  Bacteria, plaque, sugar, and acids all need to be present for a cavity to start.  Last time I wrote about bacteria and plaque.  This time I will discuss sugar and acids.

The role of sugar in tooth decay is where I am getting in the nutrition aspect of this blog. Sugar is necessary for decay to occur.  The bacteria in your mouth feeds on sugars to grow.  The biproducts of this combination are acids.  Acids are what break down tooth structure causing cavities.  By limiting or eliminating sugar, tooth decay does not occur.  While it is almost impossible to eliminate sugar from our diets, we can control the amount, the frequency of intake and the duration of the bacteria’s exposure to sugar.

Americans eat too much sugar. The recommended daily allowance of sugar is 24 grams for females and 36 grams for males. A bowl of cereal for breakfast, a yogurt at lunch and a couple of cookies or a bowl of ice cream after dinner and you are near or over the limit. I encourage patients to concentrate on frequency and duration.  Try to cut down on how many times you eat sugar through out the day.  Give your teeth several hours between sugar exposures.  The saliva needs a chance to rinse away some of the sugar and restore the mouth to a more neutral environment.  (I will talk more about that when I cover acids).

The duration of sugar exposure is also very important. Having a glass of juice or pop is far less harmful to your teeth if you cut down on the amount of time you spend drinking it.  I am not saying guzzle your drinks, but having a glass of something sweet over a twenty-minute period is better that having a glass of pop by your desk and sipping it all afternoon long.  Again, giving the mouth time to recover from an exposure helps cut down on the bacterial growth.

This month I have talked about tooth decay. If you want to prevent cavities you need to cut down on plaque by brushing and flossing every day.  A mechanical toothbrush is best.  The right toothpaste is important, it needs to have fluoride.  There is no substitute for flossing.  A fluoridated mouthwash helps.  You need to watch the amounts of sugar you consume.  Read food labels.  You also need to control the frequency of your sugar intake, and the duration of your exposure to sugar.

Next month I’ll talk about sensitivity and dry mouth. They will both tie into what we have already talked about.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Bruce