If you grew up with your mother, grandmother, or other caregiver reminding you that eating all that candy would “rot your teeth,” you are certainly not alone. For decades, we’ve all heard that drinking sugary drinks and eating our favorite candy is absolutely terrible for our teeth. Is this true? Are we really risking our oral health when we indulge in chocolate bars? Here’s what the experts say.
Sugar Does Lead to Tooth Decay
According to one of the most trusted sources of health-related information, the World Health Organization (WHO), sugar is the leading cause of cavities in both children and adults alike. However, they aren’t referring to just any sugar; the WHO specifies free sugar as being the “essential dietary factor in the development of dental caries.” Free sugar is any sugar that is added to a food or drink as well as the natural sugars found in things like honey and fruit juice. It’s “free” sugar because it isn’t bound inside the cells of the food.
However, it isn’t the sugar itself that causes tooth decay; it’s the bacteria that feed on those sugars. When you eat sugar, some of that sugary residue remains on the surfaces and in the crevices of your teeth. Bacteria begin to colonize and multiply, and before you know it, they’ve eaten through the entire surface of your tooth, causing a cavity. Fortunately, though, this doesn’t mean that you have to give up your devil’s food cake, chocolate bars, and cola altogether.
You Can Still Enjoy Your Favorite Drinks & Treats
The key to avoiding dental caries without depriving yourself of candy and soda is moderation. It is entirely possible to enjoy your favorite decadent milk chocolate treat washed down with a big gulp of cream soda without worrying about cavities and tooth decay. It isn’t the once-in-a-while exposure that causes cavities; it’s the prolonged exposure. The occasional cream soda and the occasional milk chocolate bar are perfectly safe for your teeth as long as you are brushing and flossing thoroughly after consuming them.
Candy and soda aren’t the only culprits, either. It’s important to remember that many foods and drinks can cause oral health issues if you don’t consume them in moderation. For example, prolonged exposure to acidic foods like lemons and limes can drastically weaken the tooth’s enamel, and if you regularly indulge in carb-laden meals like pasta, those carbs can become sugars, too. As a good rule of thumb, enjoy all things in moderation, and brush and floss your teeth after each meal.
Remember that no two people and situations are identical, so if you have questions or concerns about your oral health, it’s important to speak to your dentist. You only have one set of adult teeth, so it’s important to do all you can to take care of them both now and in the future.