Chances are, you will rarely find someone who will turn down a cold ice cream cone; especially during a hot month like July. As National Ice Cream Month wraps up, I’m sure all of you sweet-treat fanatics are wondering: what is all that sugar doing to my teeth? As it turns out, satisfying your sweet tooth with a high sugar intake comes with its risks.
In fact, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), dietary sugar intake is the single most detrimental factor associated with tooth decay. The problem linked to dental caries is not limited to a few cavities here and there. As a matter of fact, dental caries is the most prevalent noncommunicable (chronic) disease the world is faced with. On a case-to-case basis, individuals suffering from extreme tooth decay can face intense pain and complications on a daily basis. Additionally, attempting to solve the problem of dental caries on an international scale can put overwhelming strain on healthcare budgets across the globe.1 As you can see, an epidemic like this can put stress on both individual cases and the population as a whole.
The evidence is clear: sugar is most definitely not beneficial for your pearly whites. But the question still remains, how exactly is sugar wreaking havoc on your teeth? An important piece to note is that sugar itself is not the only attacker at fault. The other enemy at play here is, you guessed it, harmful bacteria. These groups of bacteria seem to have a sweet tooth of their own – allow me to explain.
When you consume sugar, say in ice cream for example, bacteria begin to feed on the free sugars left behind. In doing so, plaque is formed on your teeth. If the plaque is left occupying the tooth surface for too long, the pH of the oral cavity begins to plummet. As the mouth becomes increasingly acidic, this eats away at your teeth, ultimately leading to cavities and tooth decay if not treated.2
This, of course, is not to say that all bacteria that can inhabit your mouth are destructive. In reality, there are good bacteria that can exist in the mouth that can play a role in actually defending against tooth decay. Without further ado, allow me to introduce the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri. This beneficial bacterium is an all-star when it comes to promoting good oral health, including defense against tooth decay, with the scientific evidence to back it up.
A study published in the journal entitled Caries Research aimed to analyze the effect on caries in primary teeth after Lactobacillus reuteri supplementation. The study involved the participation of pregnant mothers during their final month of gestation and their children up until their first birthday. The group of 113 children were divided into a probiotic group involving 60 children and a placebo control group involving 53 children. These children were later assessed at 9 years of age to evaluate their oral health state. Interestingly, results showed that 82% of the children in the probiotic group were caries-free, while only 58% of the children in the placebo group were caries-free. This was despite no significant differences in oral hygiene habits and diet.3
I’m sure sugar enthusiasts will see these results as great news. A quick, easy and safe way to defend against tooth decay – yes please, hand it over! Luckily for those with a sweet tooth, BioGaia Prodentis harnessed the probiotic bacterium Lactobacillus reuteri into one, mint-flavoured lozenge. With these lozenges, it’s never easier to upgrade your oral health game. Who said you can’t have your ice cream and eat it too?
- Guideline: Sugars intake for adults and children. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2015.
- Tan, V. (2017). How sugar causes cavities and destroys your teeth. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-sugar-destroys-teeth#section3
- Stensson, M., Koch, G., Coric, S., Abrahamsson, T. R., Jenmalam, M. C., Birkhed, D., & Wendt, L. K. (2014). Oral administration of Lactobacillus reuteri during the first year of life reduces caries prevalent in the primary dentition at 9 years of age. Caries Research, 48(2), 111-117. doi: 10.1159/000354412