Everyone knows that sugar contributes to cavities, but do you understand the exact process of tooth decay? General and cosmetic dentist Dr. Gilly Calcagno offers information on how sugars rot your teeth and suggests sugar substitutes that won’t harm your oral or general health.
How Sugar Affects Teeth
When you eat sugar, it combines with your saliva and oral bacteria to create acids that eat away at the enamel, or protective outer layer, of your teeth. This destruction of the tooth structure is called a cavity, which can extend beyond the enamel to the underlying dentin and tooth pulp where the nerves of a tooth reside, causing pain and infection. Thoroughly brushing and flossing after eating sugar is one way of reducing your risk of decay, but you may also replace sugar with teeth-friendly sweeteners for added protection.
Stevia is a naturally-sweet herb that is 10 to 15 times sweeter than sugar. Stevia has been used for centuries as a sweetener in South America and Asia and has only recently become popular in the United States with low-carb dieters. Stevia has no calories and will not cause spikes in blood sugar. Additionally, it is safe for your teeth. Because stevia remains stable when heated, it can be used in the place of sugar for baking, so you can still eat all of your favorite treats while both protecting your teeth and avoiding weight gain.
A sugar alcohol derived from plants, xylitol is another natural sweetener that is safe for your teeth. In fact, xylitol actually helps prevent tooth decay by inhibiting the oral bacteria that contribute to erosion of tooth enamel. Look for sugarless gums sweetened with xylitol to help you maintain your oral health when you are away from home and don’t have access to your toothbrush. It is important to note that xylitol is toxic to dogs, so keep any products containing this sweetener away from your furry friends.
For all of your questions or concerns about oral health, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Gilly Calcagno, contact our Rochester dentist office at (507) 281-3659. We serve patients from Red Wing, St. Charles, Winona, Farmington, and the communities near Rochester.