Nowadays, sugars addiction had become more and more common and serious in the whole wide world not only among children but also adults. Undeniable, high sugars content food or drinks is much tastier than those healthy and plain foods. However, in fact sugars not only causing unhealthy weight gain but also many bad effects on oral health. According to World Health Organisation (WHO), oral health is defined as a state of being free from chronic mouth and facial pain, oral and throat cancer, oral infection and sores, periodontal disease, tooth decay, tooth loss, and other diseases and also disorders that limit an individuals capacity in biting, chewing, smiling, speaking, and also psychosocial well-being.
In 2016, the Global Burden of Disease Study indicate that they estimate that, minimum of 3.58 billion people worldwide had affected by oral diseases and the most widespread among all conditions assessed and globally are decay on the adult tooth while it is also estimated that 2.4 billion people were suffered from decay of the adult tooth and 486 million children were suffering from caries of deciduous teeth.
Besides, based on The Telegraph News in 2018, there are up to 170 youngsters everyday having teeth extracted due to sugar addiction in United Kingdom.
As you can see, it is a horrifying amount of people that are getting dental caries just because of sugars. There is also one recent study among school children found that there is four times likely to develop cavities on those who likes to eat cookies and potato chips as compare to the children who do not.
Therefore, the government of United Kingdom has carried out some prevention in order to reduce the intake of sugars in children.
However, there is a common question that the majority of the people are wondering, which is how and why sugars will cause dental caries or some other bad effect on oral health? Worldwide government, dentists and health care professional has been very concern about this issue for quite a couple of years. According to the research, sugar will cause tooth decay is because of the frequent supply of high sugar content foods or drinks that will from dental plaque on the surface of the tooth and leads to an acidic oral environment as the oral bacteria (Streptococcus) will ferment the simple sugars and start to produce acid. When the oral pH drops below 5.5, the acid will begin to dissolves the minerals from the tooth surface which is called demineralisation process.
The sweet and sticky food that stick well on tooth surfaces had result in the reducing of the self-cleansing effect of saliva. As we all know that, saliva helps to neutralise the acids and contributed for the process of remineralisation in between periods of eating and drinking. Therefore, sugary snacking in between meals will interrupt the remineralisation process. The production of acid may continue for about 20 to 30 minutes after eating and it will be longer if food debris gets trapped between the teeth or remains in the mouth. Therefore, the remineralisation process will greatly be reduced.
When the tooth starts to demineralise, the tooth surface will be penetrated by the acid in the bacteria. A cavity will be formed as the enamel is weakened and starts to collapse. This indicates that the tooth is progressively destroyed and eventually the destruction will spread to the softer and sensitive part which expose the dentine that located under the enamel by dissolving some tooth minerals, such as fluoride, calcium and phosphate.
At this stage, the patient may have a sensitive tooth when they are having hot or cold foods as dentine is a part where contained microscopic channels that contain fluid and cellular structures which called dentinal tubules and can increase the sensation of pain and the rate of tooth decay. If patient do not undergo any treatment like dental filling at this point, the caries may start to attack the roots of the tooth which is the pulp. When the root of the tooth is destroyed and the pulp get infected, the patient will feel extreme pain and have to undergo root canal treatment or tooth extraction.
Many people may think that if they reduce the intake of those high sugar content foods or drinks, they could effectively avoid tooth decay. However, studies also show that Streptococcus mutans which is the oral bacteria can ferment both intrinsic and extrinsic sugar which means that carbohydrates-containing foods also have the potential to contribute tooth decay.
In contrast, lactose is much more less cariogenic than sucrose as lactose are not able to be utilised by the oral bacteria as readily as sucrose as an energy source, although it may cause dental caries too. On the other hand, regular and diet soft drinks, sports and energy drinks, fruit juices, and also cordials have high acid levels that can cause tooth erosion too. Based on the study of PubMed Central found that one occasional sugary drink may result in up to 44% of chance of losing 15 teeth as compared to those who did not drink any sugary drinks.
On the other hand, frequent intake of sugary foods or drinks may lead to the formation of plaque on the surface of the tooth. The plaque is known as a sticky, colourless film of bacteria and sugar that constantly form on the teeth. If one does not take any action to remove the plaque daily, it will be calcified and harden then eventually become tartar or dental calculus. The formation of tartar may greatly affect our appearance as it can trap stains and causes the discolouration of our teeth. It may even lead to bad breath. In an addition, long term accumulation of tartar will cause our teeth to become more prone to the formation of new plaque and bacteria which is more difficult to be remove as compare to the initial formation of plaque.
The teeth may be more vulnerable to disease with a layer of plaque on the surface of our teeth. Therefore, it can be seen that the growth of tartar on teeth will cause destructive on the tooth that will lead to dental caries more easily. Not only that, long term formation of tartar may also lead to gum problems as it forms just above the gum lines. The bacteria that constantly accumulate at the tartar may cause the gums to be inflamed which so-called gingivitis which will be noticed by some symptoms like the gums turn red, swollen and can bleed easily.
Furthermore, if the gingivitis does not be treated, it will become more serious that will finally result in periodontitis which is a set of inflammatory condition that affecting the tissues surrounding the teeth. Periodontitis will cause the gums to be pull away and form a gap in between the teeth and gums which called periodontal pocket. The formation of the periodontal pocket causes the teeth to be more susceptible to infection as the bacteria will start to colonise and multiply in the space between the gum and teeth. It causes the bone and the connective tissues that provides support for the teeth begin to break down causing the gingiva recession to occur and eventually the teeth will lose its support if the periodontitis is not being treated. Finally, the teeth may become loose and have to be removed.
Based on these statements, we can clearly see that sugar will bring many bad effects to us. Therefore, prevention is necessary to provide us a better oral health condition. According to the guidelines that released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended that the most ideal intake of sugar should be only 5% from a persons total daily calories, but this drastic cutback of sugar is seem to be quite impossible therefore the nutrition director of the WHO, Dr. Francesco Brana said that 10% will be more realistic but people should aim for 5% to maintain an ideal oral health condition.
Besides, people should maintain their oral hygiene by regularly brush their teeth by using fluoride containing toothpaste to help the remineralisation process and flossing to remove dental plaque. People can also use the fluoride-containing or antiseptic-containing mouthwash to kill the bacteria that presents in our mouth. Regular visit of dentist or dental therapist is also very important to maintain our oral health.
In summary, sugar may be mouth-watering but in fact it brings us a lot of bad effect that may affect our health. We should always bear in mind that oral health is very important as it contributes to our overall health. Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, and chair of the Commons Health Committee once said that Reducing sugar isnt just about tackling obesity, its about this important issue of dental health. Therefore, we should control our sugar intake to make sure we have a healthy oral health. Lets maintain our oral health to have a better smile.