How does what I eat affect my teeth?
Eating is by far one of my favourite past times. There is nothing quite like a good meal thoroughly enjoyed with friends. Unsurprisingly, the things we eat can have a large impact on our mouth as well as the rest of our health.
What's the deal with sugar?
Sugar is in almost everything that we eat. Sugar is a simple word for carbohydrate (or carbs) & carbohydrates are good for us! They give us a lot of the energy we need to get up, get out and live our day to day lives. There are two main types of carbohydrates :
Simple carbs - these break down into glucose (sugar) quickly & easily
Complex carbs - these break down into glucose more slowly
Simple carbs are found in things like table sugar, chocolate, cakes, biscuits, sweets, milk, fruits & juices. These type of sugars can do a lot of damage in the mouth because the bacteria can turn them into acid very easily. In order to prevent teeth from decay, it's important to restrict exposure to these types of carbohydrates to as few occasions a day as possible.
1 cup of tea with 5 teaspoons of sugar in it is BETTER THAN .... 5 cups of tea each with one sugar in them drunk over the day.
The TOTAL AMOUNT of sugar is the same but the 5 cups of tea will do more damage because you get acid damage on 5 occasions instead of one occasion.
How does sugar damage teeth?
Sugar on its own does no damage to teeth. It's what the bacteria in your mouth do with sugar that causes damage to teeth. Some of the bacteria in your mouth have the ability to change the sugar that you eat into acid which attacks the surface of the teeth. Over time this results in holes or dental decay. Every time you expose your teeth to a simple sugar, you can have up to 30 minutes worth of acid damage to your teeth. This means that the things you choose to eat and drink between meals is really important in terms of protecting your teeth.
Are 'no added sugar' food and drink options OK?
From an overall health point of view, food and drinks with no added sugar are better than their 'full fat' counterparts. Do not be deceived though, no added sugar is not the same as no sugar. A lot of foods and drinks in particular have naturally occurring sugars in them- so a sweet tasting drink with 'no added sugar' still actually has sugar in it. This means it can do some damage to your teeth.
What about fizzy drinks?
Fizzy drinks are really bad for teeth for two reasons. Firstly, they tend to be full of sugar (as you already know) and secondly, the fizz in the drink changes into acid in the mouth which can also lead to damage. This is often called toothwear, or more specifically acid erosion. It is possible to get acid damage to your teeth for other reasons, such as a diet rich in citrus fruits or suffering with an eating disorder such as bulimia. Acid weakens the surfaces of your teeth and makes it easier for them to be worn away.