Dental Myth Busters

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This article was published last year in the Cincinnati Dental Society Bulletin

Candy is Dandy; cause Sugar Won’t Rot Your Teeth

There, I said it. It’s now off my chest. I have intended for years to expose this dirty little secret, so I no longer care what the Tooth Fairy thinks of me. Yes, the white lie that organized dentistry has been spreading since Sir Hans Adolf Krebs so humbly placed his name on his discovery of the energy producing citric acid cycle, the “Krebs Cycle”, is now out in the open. I’m going to lead you through the discovery that sugar, by itself, does not cause tooth decay. That revelation will provide for you ultimate control over the health of your own teeth.

So let’s first follow the simple science. You can place a real tooth in a saturated sugar solution for a hundred years, but in the absence of bacteria, the tooth will not decay in the least bit. Sugar by itself does nothing at all to the tooth structure. In the mouth, however, millions of bacteria feed on the sugar and poop acid onto your teeth (the Kreb’s Cycle) which in turn digs the hole in the tooth which we so lovingly refer to as tooth decay.

So why am I busting this myth on what appears to be just a technicality? After all, in real life, the result of eating sugar does indeed cause cavities. Well, this distinction between sugar and the acid that bacteria produce from it provides the patient with real choices. All dentists know that it takes 24 to 48 hours to produce the bacterial colonies or “plaque” which cause the dreaded tooth decay. If you can remove the plaque completely on a daily basis you can virtually eliminate tooth decay. Now granted, that is easier said than done. The use of a high quality electric toothbrush, thorough dental flossing, and a water pik irrigation device can go a long way towards achieving this goal. So in theory, you really can have your cake and eat it too.

Let’s take this tidbit of newfound knowledge and see how we can expand on it to improve our odds even further for preventing tooth decay. Every time we place sugar or even the direct acid from soda pop into our mouths, the tooth destroying effects last for approximately 45 minutes. Whether you eat a teaspoon, or a pound of sugar at that moment, it doesn’t really matter, it is still counts as just one episode. Whether you drink a sip of soda pop or chug a gallon at a time, again, it is still counts as just one episode. Remember, the bacteria can only eat a tiny bit. The rest of the sugar or pop passes by and goes right down the tube (weight gain is a whole different lecture). 

How do we apply this revolutionary knowledge to your own personal choices? It really isn’t rocket science. The moral of the story is to reduce the episodes of sugar and pop exposure in order to reduce tooth decay and acid erosion. Don’t place a can of soda pop on your desk and drink one small sip every hour to make it last longer! That’s 12, 1 oz. episodes from just one 12 oz. can. If you drink the whole can quickly, it counts as just one episode. When Halloween comes around, instead of allowing your child one piece of candy several times a day or even over a long extended period of time, encourage them to consume more at once, thus creating fewer episodes. The longer the child drags out the candy, the more tooth destroying episodes the teeth must endure. Who cares if they bounce off the walls for a short while? The cavity lasts forever. I’m sure you can reflect upon your own choices where you too can reduce those harmful episodes. Simply remember, it is the frequency, not the volume.

Now in defense of organized dentistry, we know as a matter of practicality that no one is perfect. Even though you might follow the above suggestions concerning reducing episodes and attempt to clean your teeth thoroughly at home, you will still collect some degree of plaque no matter what. That’s why we still recommend regular continuing care cleanings and checkups to back you up. Together, we hope to minimize your dental treatment in the future and help you make informed choices for you and your family. Bon Appetite! 

More Dental Myth Busters to follow…

Respectfully Submitted By:

Glen R. Meyer DDS

Expelled member of the Tooth Fairy Club and

CDS’s Community Relations Committee

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