What Happens to Your Teeth After Eating Something Sugary?

Updated August 19, 2016

I have a sweet tooth, do you? Do you have to have a spot of something sweet after a meal? Is chocolate your best friend? Do you crave sugar? I have had a sweet tooth since I was a little kid and it caused a lot of problems in my mouth and for my parent’s wallet. I know a lot of other people have the same sweet tooth and the same financial issues when it comes to paying to have all those rotted teeth fixed.

Image via Flickr by Michael Bentley

For anyone with a sweet tooth, there's nothing quite like sinking your teeth into a gooey brownie or crunching down on a sweet piece of candy. The way that sugar tickles your taste buds, hits your brain, and revs up your blood is like nothing else, but your saccharine vice can have a disastrous effect on your teeth.

This effect is not such a nice one either. It can make your strong, healthy teeth into a bunch of discolored, pitted, painful pieces of enamel. But there is something you can do to keep your bright, beautiful teeth shining and pain-free for many years to come.

The Insidious Relationship Between Sugar and Decay

At the moment of consumption, there's nothing more delicious than that red velvet cupcake, Snickers bar, or bag of Skittles. At most, after finishing a sweet treat, you likely think to yourself that you'll brush your teeth straight away or as soon as possible, but the truth is that the sugar begins its work the second it touches your teeth.

Not all sugars are created equal, and sucrose is significantly worse for your teeth. It latches onto your saliva and any of the bacteria hanging out in your mouth as soon as you eat it. Even if you brush your teeth immediately, sucrose helps a mix of protein and carbohydrate molecules, called glycoproteins, stick to your teeth, where plaque starts to form.

That bacteria then cozies up to the glycoproteins. Streptococcus mutans are the worst of these since they're responsible for creating cavities. Although Streptococcus is naturally occurring, the bacteria don't do well with sucrose. If left to their own devices, the bacteria undergo a process called glycolysis, which results in the creation of lactic acid. Lactic acid dissolves your tooth enamel by eating away at the calcium phosphate in it, which inevitably leads to cavities.

Timing Is Everything

It is true that even if you brush right after consuming sweets, there's still a chance for plaque to get a stronghold on your teeth. However, that does not mean you shouldn't brush after enjoying your treat.

Brushing is vital to remove sugar that bacteria need to produce acid that rots your teeth. If you remove the sugar (or the majority of it) immediately after eating or drinking a sweet treat, you are saving your teeth from becoming cavity-ridden and comprised of ugly fillings. Make sure you brush your teeth for at least two to three minutes to get all the plaque and residual sugary food particles off your teeth and from in between the cracks.

Brushing your teeth is just the starting point. You can also rinse your mouth with water or mouthwash, especially if there's not a toothbrush handy while you're drinking soda on-the-go. More than that, always try to brush three times a day and never less than twice. Finally, flossing is one surefire way to get all the sugar, plaque, bacteria, and other debris out of your teeth, especially the hard-to-reach crevices where cavities love to form.

If you are out and about and do not have a toothbrush with you, the two best methods to use to rid your teeth of the nasty leftover sugar, plaque, and bacteria is to rinse your mouth and use floss. Floss can be placed in a pocket in your jeans or within your purse or clutch. Usually, you can find a public restroom to use their mirror. If you are not able to carry floss, there are drinking fountains everywhere! Not only is the water supplemented with fluoride to help keep your teeth and bones strong and healthy, but the water is free, and you can use as much as you like to rinse your mouth of sugar and plaque.

Substitute Your Sweets

Sugary foods and drinks are tempting. In fact, ingesting sugar is a hard habit to break. But, now more than ever, it's entirely possible thanks to the sheer abundance of low-sugar and sugar-free treats and drinks available. If you find that you can't cut sugar cold turkey, moderate your intake of your favorite treats, and search for tasty substitutions.

you drink coffee at home, and you use sugar, add a quarter less of sugar to your morning coffee. Do this for a few days. Then subtract another quarter of your daily sugar and keep doing this for a few days. Little by little ween yourself from the sugar you place in your coffee or tea daily until you are drinking it with no sugar at all. This will be a complicated process, and it will be a long process, but think of the rewards you will be gaining. Not only will your teeth thank you, but your body will too. Just think of all the calories you will no longer be consuming. That can help your body as it has to process fewer foods, but it also has taken in fewer calories which means your tight shorts will start fitting again!

Try this method with all the foods and drinks in your house. If you make Kool-Aid, use less sugar when you make it. If you are baking brownies or other desserts, take a quarter of the sugar out of the recipe. Your teeth will thank you!

Your teeth have to last the rest of your life, protect them with a dental discount plan. Look for a dental provider to have your teeth professionally cleaned and examined for cavities.

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