Quick question: what is the cause of tooth decay?
If you said sugar, you’re right, but only partly right. Although sugar gets the lion’s share of the blame for tooth decay, it is only one of the factors involved in the most common dental concern. Bacteria and acid are just as responsible for tooth decay as sugar is, if not more so, but people seem to be obsessed with the destructive nature of sugar.
There is a glut of sugar free food products available today. Just look around the next time you are in the supermarket. The shelves are full of sugar free this and diet that, as if sugar was the only concern health conscious shoppers had. The problem is this: people who are over focused on sugar may not be aware of the health hazards presented by the other ingredients in sugar free food. Diet soda, for example, contains no sugar, so some people drink it under the delusion they protecting their teeth. They are not. In fact, the flavoring additives in diet sodas are just as bad for your teeth and gums sugar is.
At Overmeyer Family Dental, we are committed to providing the people of Orlando, FL with the best information available, so you can make informed decisions about your family’s diet and dental care.
The True Nature of Decay
As we mentioned above, sugar is a contributor to the development of tooth decay, but it does not work alone. The main culprit when it comes to tooth decay is a bacteria called dental caries. Dental caries thrive in mouths, especially those with poor oral hygiene. No one is born with this bacteria in their mouth, but almost everyone gets it from a family member, usually by sharing spoons and eating after each other.
Sugar is not totally off the hook, though. Dental caries feed on sugar, which they in turn convert into acid. This acid eats away at the tooth enamel. This is what causes tooth day. As you can see, bacteria, sugar, acid all work together to create the triumvirate of tooth decay.
Tooth decay can be as minor as a small cavity, or as severe enough to destroy your tooth. If tooth decay is left untreated, it can make it all the way to the soft pulp at the center of your teeth, which is filled with tiny nerves and blood vessels. If this happens, you may have to get a root canal to save your tooth, or even worse, you may lose the tooth.
What Makes Diet Soda Dangerous
Although it is true that diet sodas do not contain sugar, that is, after all, what makes them “diet”. This is just fine as long as you don’t think that the lack of sugar makes diet sodas any better for your teeth. The truth is diet sodas contain acids that will do plenty of damage to your teeth without the help of sugar.
Phosphoric acid and citric acid are common flavor additives in all sodas, not just diet. Although diet sodas may contain more to give their flavor that extra bite that is missing from whatever artificial sweetener they are using.
Phosphoric acid, although found naturally in many foods, is very corrosive. So corrosive that one of its common usages, outside of soda flavoring, is to strip rust from metal. You can imagine what something that corrosive would do to your teeth.
Maybe the worst thing about phosphoric acid, though, is that it blocks your body’s ability to absorb calcium. Without calcium your teeth cannot self-repair, or remineralize. This make makes phosphoric acid doubly dangerous for your teeth, and not great for the rest of your body.
Citric acid is also very corrosive, and it can be found in a number of foods and drinks that are otherwise considered healthy, including fruit juice and sports drinks. In fact, the only thing that is truly safe to drink regularly throughout the day is water.
Water Is the Key to Healthy Teeth
Drinking plenty of water is one of the most important things you can do to protect your oral health. Water will combat all three major contributors to tooth decay. It will wash food particles, sugar, and acid from your teeth, as well as neutralizing the acid in your mouth.
Dental caries thrive in dry mouths, so staying hydrated so your mouth can produce saliva is extremely important. Saliva is a natural antibacterial that will fight dental caries and protect the health of your mouth.
Visit Overmeyer Family Dental for more information about how to protect your teeth and gums. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.