Brushing Teeth After Eating Sugar
My sweet tooth is vicious. And wicked. And sneaky … boy, is it sneaky.
I walk into the kitchen intent on cooking flounder in a cast iron skillet while steaming my broccolini with a little bit of pink Himalayan salt sprinkled on top.
And I do it.
I love a good, flaky white fish, and when it’s cooked in cast iron, I get the added benefit of extra iron in my diet. Add to that some perfectly steamed broccolini, and my mouth is full-on watering.
Mmm. Mmmm! Yeah, baby. Super tasty. Plus, it’s a superfood and a very healthy source of lean protein. That’s a one-two, power-packed punch for my good health.
I am so proud of myself.
For real. I deserve a pat on the back … and I even start thinking about my healthy dinner. Then I mentally plan my workouts because this girl is on fire. This girl is going to workout hard. Shoot. Maybe even hit two workouts a day!
I can see it now. I can see my abs. There you are, you invisible devils. And my triceps are popping out. Yep. I am envisioning my fluff disappearing and my muscles taking center stage.
Man, life is good. #goals
I need water. So I get up and go to the refrigerator.
There it is. A harmless plastic container with a lid is staring at me. Dadgummit. I know exactly what’s inside. I know because I made it.
Cream cheese, brown sugar, vanilla, marshmallow fluff, and whipped topping all blended together until it’s super creamy. Next, fold in chocolate chips.
It’s horrible. Don’t do it. And definitely don’t forgo the graham crackers for salty pretzels to dip in it. Seriously. It’s disgusting.
And that’s why I had to do it. I had to spare everyone else the pain and trauma that would no doubt happen to them.
I grab that cursed tub of sin and a bag of pretzels before it could inflict any damage on my loved ones. I know what you’re thinking. And yes. Yes, Hero is my middle name.
My kids are home. They look in the fridge for a snack. There is banging and grunting. More searching. Puzzled sounds emerge from their lips.
“Mom?!” they whine.
“Not to worry. It’s all gone. I took care of it. You’re welcome,” I reply.
Dadgummit. My plan for the day was to eat healthy, exercise, and completely avoid sugar. I had big ideas. I started out really well.
But it was practically calling my name. Dang it!! Stupid sugar. It completely overtook my veggie voice. Sneaky freaking sugar.
Pathetic. I love it, but my body hates it. My belly, my thighs, my arms … Heck, even my teeth hate sugar.
You can’t exercise the sugar away from your teeth. When sugar makes you gain weight, you can eat right and exercise to reverse the effects. But if sugar damages your teeth, you can’t change your diet and brush away the damage.
What Happens to Teeth When Eating Sugar?
First, your mouth sends a message to your brain begging for sugar. Before you know it, you’re making a U-turn and hitting the 7-Eleven for a slushie and a bag of chips. (Gotta balance the sweet with some salty because you are such a practical person.)
You suck down your slushie and bathe your teeth in cherry syrup. Then you munch on that bag of salt and vinegar chips. Slurp, crunch … Sluurrrrpp. Aaahhh.
And you keep on driving. You have errands to run, places to go, people to see.
Meanwhile, in the nooks, crannies, and crevices of your mouth, things are happening. Bad things. Insidious, destructive things.
Your mouth already had bacteria in it. Just waiting for the right partner to come along and pursue the same mission. This mission is to seek and destroy your enamel, leaving you with a mouth full of decay.
That bacteria sitting there acts like Pac-Man running through a maze and chomping on every sugar particle it finds. Mmmhmm. Sugar is a feast for bacteria lounging around in your mouth.
That bacteria produces acids that break down and dissolve the outer layer of our teeth, better known as the enamel. Once the acid eats through the enamel, it makes its way to the dentin, which is the middle layer of the tooth. It keeps on tunneling through until it reaches the inner sanctum, also known as the pulp.
It quite literally burrows its way all the way through the tooth, making holes, weakening the tooth, and causing pain. The result is a discolored tooth with dark, nasty spots where the tooth has decayed.
Guess what? Sugar all by itself doesn’t harm your teeth. (I knew it! That’s one more reason why I can still love sugar.) But. Our mouths are the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. So when sugar is introduced to that breeding ground, it feeds the bacteria lurking about.
Basically, sugar helps bacteria in its mission to destroy the teeth.
What Are the Main Culprits in the Sugary Devastation of the Teeth?
The sugary substances, which are also acidic, can do quite a bit of damage. Soda is loaded with processed sugar and very high in acidity. Diet sodas are not the exception.
Regular old fruit juice and sports drinks also contain a whole lotta sugar to feed that bacteria. A can of soda has about thirty-nine grams of sugar, and the same amount of apple juice delivers about thirty-three grams of sugar. Sports drinks have quite a bit less sugar at just over twenty grams … but that is still quite a bit of sugar.
The absolute worst sugar for your teeth is sucrose. (You might know it as natural sugar.) It leeches onto the saliva in your mouth as well as any bacteria sitting there just after eating it. Sucrose aids in making glycoproteins (a mix of protein and carbs) adhere to the teeth.
Those glycoproteins quickly become besties with the bacteria. And if streptococcus is present, it means trouble for your teeth. Streptococcus occurs naturally in the mouth, so they’re kind of hard to avoid.
The strep bacteria end up going through glycolysis and creating lactic acid. That lactic acid, in turn, eats away at the tooth enamel and leads to cavities.
Okay. Sit down for this next part. You’re going to be disappointed. There is a drink higher in sugar than soda. It’s coffee with cream and sugar. Forty freaking grams of sugar!!
People, it isn’t all about sugary drinks. We cannot ignore the giant elephant in the room, candy. Gummy candy is basically all sugar. And they are sticky.
What do hygienists hate the most? Lollipops. We suck on them for extended periods of time, and the sugar just makes its way all through your teeth, feeding that bacteria while you make your way to the center of the Tootsie Pop. (No. The owl was wrong. It does not take three licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop.)
So What Can You Do About the Sugar?
Even though sugar is not directly responsible for ruining our teeth, it definitely plays a contributing role and is held responsible for quite a bit of the damage that is done to our teeth.
For years, we’ve been told to brush right away after eating sugar. It seems to make sense. Get that destructive stuff off of your pearly whites asap, right?! Just scrub it away so it cannot cause damage to the teeth.
But wait. Is that right? Should you grab your toothbrush and go to town on your teeth right after taking that last sip of soda?
You want to be smart and say yes. Yesss, grab your toothbrush and save your teeth! #savemyteeth
And you’d be wrong.
For the best result when it comes to removing sugar from your teeth, you need to wait thirty to sixty minutes before brushing your teeth.
Remember what acid does to your teeth? It weakens the enamel. So, brushing your teeth right away can cause damage to the vulnerable enamel.
Oddly enough, the sugar is wandering around in your mouth having a little party. It is floating around in there, settling in your cheeks and on your tongue before landing on the teeth.
It takes anywhere from thirty to sixty minutes before all of the sugar has settled onto the teeth. So, if you brush right away, you won’t brush away all of the sugar. That basically defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?
The point of brushing your teeth is to remove all of the bacteria and acid that is potentially going to wreak havoc in your mouth. And although it feels counterintuitive to wait, you must.
You will have a higher likelihood of removing all of the sugar if you floss, brush, and rinse your teeth after waiting about an hour.
In the Meantime …
Drink water. Yes. Water is the liquid of life! Keep your teeth alive and kicking by drinking water after every meal, snack, or drink.
While you are waiting to brush your teeth, drink up! Don’t just take a sip. Drink a good amount of water, so it hits all of your tooth surfaces and rinses away the excess food particles and acids.
Water will also help keep your breath fresher after eating, as well as in between meals. It not only rinses away bacteria and funk, but it also helps to wash away the germs that cause bad breath.
Basically, drinking water is a win-win for your mouth!
If you must drink sugar-laden sodas, use a straw. By using a straw, you will limit the amount of soda that comes in contact with your teeth.
Remember to keep water available to you after eating and drinking anything with sugar. This will help to rinse away the sugar.
Wait. Wait a minimum of thirty minutes before you brush your teeth.
So, if you have a wicked sweet tooth, it’s okay to indulge as long as you remember to drink water and wait to brush!