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Does Sugar Really Cause Cavities?


Everyone with teeth is susceptible to developing cavities. It is the most prevalent disease in the world. It affects people of all ages, up to 30% of the global population.

However, sugar doesn’t directly cause cavities. Of course, sugar plays some part in the formation of cavities, just like any other healthy foods like whole grains, vegetables and fruits. 

Hence, sugar is not the real culprit. Rather, plaques, which are formed when the bacteria in the mouth produce an acid that combines with saliva when these foods substances are being digested.

What are Cavities? 

Cavities are holes in the mouth due to tooth enamel erosion. Cavities can lead to gum disease and tooth loss. Tooth decay - caused by the build up of plaques - is the first step in the formation of cavities. Plaque is a jelly and sticky film covering the tooth's surface.

Plaque destroys the protective tooth covering called enamel and leaves the tooth susceptible to microbial attack. The acid secreted by the plaque causes the tooth to decay, which, if left untreated, creates tiny holes in the tooth, called cavities.

The damage progresses to the dentin, which is the next to enamel and has less resistance to acid, unlike the enamel. Damage to the dentin causes tooth sensitivity.

If not treated, the damage continues toward the pulp, which houses nerves and blood vessels. Damage to the pulp is called pulp necrosis, and symptoms include severe pain and swollen, irritated gums. 

Symptoms of Cavity

  • Toothache 

  • Sensitive teeth

  • Tooth discoloration, usually white or black stain

  • Hole in the tooth

  • Pain when chewing

Risk factors

Certain lifestyles expose you to the development of cavities. Some of these are discussed below;

  • Poor Oral Hygiene

People with poor oral hygiene have a higher chance of developing cavities because of plaque accumulation each time they eat. A dentist Bacchus Marsh recommends that a person brush their teeth twice daily and floss at least once, to maintain proper hygiene.

  • Tooth Location 

Back-end teeth are more at risk of cavities because they have specific structures like grooves, pits, and crannies that can be hard to reach with a toothbrush.

  • Poor fluoride intake

Fluoride is crucial in preventing cavities, which is why it is an active ingredient in most toothpaste. Town water supplies are treated with fluoride too.

  • Dry Mouth

A lack of saliva causes dry mouth. Saliva washes away food particles and plaque from tooth surfaces. Lack of it makes the mouth vulnerable.

  • Eating disorder 

Eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia can affect saliva production. Also, constant purging can cause the enamel to weaken when due to the effect of the stomach acid.

  • Certain foods and drinks

Foods and drinks high in sugar and acid increase the risk of developing decay, especially when they cling to the hard-to-reach part of the tooth.

Prevention of Cavities

  • Proper oral hygiene: Brush your teeth at least twice daily and floss at least once daily.

  • Reduce the consumption of sugary and acidic food.

  • Use fluoridated toothpaste.

  • Drink plenty of water.

  • Keep up with your dental appointments.

  • Avoid tobacco products.

Cavities are not always easy to point out as they are primarily asymptomatic except in advanced stages, which is why experts advise a visit to the dentist at least twice a year, to detect the early development of an oral infection.

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