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Sugary foods, Bacteria, & Cavities

Brian Bambl B.S. Exercise Science 2011-09-08

Lactobacillus bacteria

I'm sure that you've heard that sugars are bad for your teeth and can cause cavities, but why? Sugars are very sticky molecules that adhere to the surface of your teeth. Once on the surface of your teeth, bacteria that naturally occur in your mouth (i.e. Lactobacillus and Streptococcus) consume the sugars. These bacteria produce acids as a byproduct of their metabolism of sugar and starches. These acids then cause erosion of the enamel on your teeth which in turn leads to dental caries also known as cavities.

It is inevitable that you will consume sugars and starches as a part of your diet since they are found in almost everything you eat, so eliminating these from your diet isn't really an option.  Some of the main culprits which contribute to high acid production by the bacteria in your mouth and should be limited in your diet include, hard candies, soda pop, and other drinks which are high in sugar.  Sodas not only contribute to acid production through the sugars which they contain but, sodas also contain phosphoric acid which is damaging to the enamel of your teeth.

The key to limiting cavities from sugary foods is to limit your daily intake. It is recommended that less than 10% of your daily Calories come from simple sugars. Also, since sugars and starches cannot be completely eliminated from your diet it is very important to brush your teeth after consuming sugar rich foods. If you don't have a tooth brush available then simply rinsing your mouth with water can also be helpful.

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