January 18th, 2021

Sugar here, sugar there, sugar everywhere!

By Jensen, Randy on August 28, 2020.

Jenna Lannan

Alberta Health Services

Sugar is very prominent in our lives and is extremely hard to avoid. Everywhere we go there seems to be an opportunity for some type of sweet treat. Most people are aware that sugar causes tooth decay, but they might not know exactly known why.

So why does sugar cause tooth decay? The mouth is full of hundreds of bacteria, and they are both healthy and harmful. The problem is that when you eat sweets, these harmful bacteria feed on the sugars. The bacteria create acids that harm and destroy enamel (the outer layer of the teeth), and the acids can create holes or cavities in the teeth. This will continue to happen until the cavity is treated and can progress deeper into the tooth creating more pain, infection and potentially tooth loss.

These acids can cause the enamel of the teeth to wear away, leaving them chalky white, which is called demineralization. Our saliva is constantly trying to reverse this process and this is called remineralization. Saliva has calcium and phosphate in it that naturally repairs our teeth. Fluoride is also very important protection against these acid attacks because it repairs that weakened enamel.

Although these minerals are very important, they can only do so much. It is important to limit the amount of sugar and starchy foods that we eat. Other ways that we can help this remineralization process is by stimulating saliva by chewing sugar-free gum after meals. Fresh vegetables and fruit also help to stimulate this saliva. Cheese, yogurt and other dairy products are a great snack choice because they are high in calcium and phosphates and help strengthen teeth.

Say “yes” to fluoride. Not only does this mineral help prevent tooth decay, it can also reverse early stages of tooth decay. Drinking fluoridated water, using a CDA-approved fluoride toothpaste and receiving a professional fluoride treatment at least twice a year at the dentist are very important.

Make brushing and flossing a habit every day and stick to it. Use a soft bristle or an electric toothbrush two times daily with fluoride toothpaste. Once the fluoride has been brushed on, it is important to wait 30 minutes before eating or drinking. Also, flossing daily to remove food from between teeth is important.

Alberta Health Services also offers a free dental screening and fluoride varnish for children aged 12-35 months. Please call your local health unit with questions or visit http://www.ahs.ca/oralhealth.

Alberta Seniors Benefits are available for eligible residents in Alberta over the age of 65. For more information visit http://www.seniors-housing.alberta.ca/seniors/seniors-benefit-program.html or contact 1-877-644-9992.

Alberta Child Health Benefits is for families with limited income that may not have insurance or money to go to the dentist or other medical providers. For any more questions please visit employment.alberta/hb-policy or call 1-877-469-5437.

Jenna Lannan is a Dental Hygienist with Alberta Health Services.

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