Understanding Sugar, Bacteria and Their Connection to Tooth Decay

A toothbrush, toothpaste and dental floss will always be key components to fighting cavities.

A popular question that our dentist in Burlington Dr. Toong tends to get asked is, “Why do I get so many cavities?”.

Now, the simple answer is — drumroll please — bacteria! Cavities are the result of growth of bacteria in the mouth. It’s an infection, plain and simple. When certain types of bacteria grow, they secrete acid. This acid then eats away at the surface enamel of the tooth until it reaches the dentin (the second innermost layer of the tooth), until enough decay occurs to create a cavity over time.

Beware of plaque: It loves to accumulate

Plaque that accumulates on your teeth contains millions of bacteria and food for them to grow. If the plaque remains, it will allow bacteria to grow and release acids that eat away at your teeth - therefor cleaning the plaque from the teeth is very important.

Another common question our Burlington dentist tends to get is: “I get a cleaning ever 6 months - why do I still have cavities?”

Your visit to the dentist is very important, as the cleaning portion will remove the plaque that has accumulated and hardened on your teeth. However, while it’s crucial to have a professional regularly remove plaque, the growth of bacteria will still be occurring in-between visits (and especially in-between sugary snacks). In order to prevent cavities most efficiently, you must limit feeding the bacteria the sugars that it thrives on to wreak havoc on the teeth, and when it does get fed, remove it thoroughly and as often as possible (tooth brushing should happen at least twice daily for two full minutes each time - and don’t forget once-daily flossing, too!)

Beware of sugar: It loves to enable bacteria

Let's talk about the sweet culprit. We all know that candies, sodas, chocolates, etc. aren’t so great for our smiles. This is because these foods contain a high content of sugars - primarily refined sugars. Sugar, or glucose, is a great food source for bacteria.

The thing is however, many of our everyday foods and beverages contain sugar. For example bread, fruits, that supposedly healthy granola or energy bar, juices - the list goes on! They all contain sugar. Sugar is even put into many of the processed foods we eat.

While the amount of sugar in our food has an impact on the potential damage done to our teeth - how often and how long our mouths are exposed to these sugars which make themselves available to bacteria is also important.

If we snack regularly throughout the day on foods and/or drinks containing sugars, we are constantly feeding the decay-causing bacteria. If food debris is left in between our teeth or stuck to the grooves of our teeth, then this too will feed bacteria. This is why it must be constantly removed through brushing and flossing.

Think you may have a cavity but too anxious to get it fixed?

Call the friendly Dr. Samuel Toong today to learn if sleep dentistry is right for you! We promise, there’s nothing to be afraid of (other than a worsening cavity that doesn’t receive treatment!)

Dr. Toong