CARBS VS. CARIES – WHY CARBOHYDRATES CAUSE CAVITIES

October 14, 2021

How many times have we heard the old adage, “stay away from carbs, they make you fat” or “carbs are just pure sugar dressed up as bread”. When we say these statements, we usually are only taking about what carbohydrates do to our waistline, not our teeth. We know that we need good wholesome, unprocessed carbs to give us the energy we need to move our bodies throughout the day. By the word carbohydrates, I am referring to simple, processed foods that can stick to your teeth, causing plaque bacteria, tartar and cavities. Hard and soft candies, milk, white bread, rice and pasta, sugary cereals, and pop are the major sources of not only gaining weight, but also tooth decay. There are so many hidden carbohydrates that we just aren’t aware of. Can you believe even breast milk sugars can be harmful for little teeth? In this BLOG, I’d like to examine how carbohydrates can cause cavities. 

What exactly are cavities?  Cavities, or what dental professionals refer to as caries, form when bacteria (normally found in plaque on teeth) produce acid that can weaken tooth enamel. The bacteria use carbohydrates as a “fuel” to produce the damaging acid. The enamel can then develop into a hole on the surface of the tooth, hence the term “cavity”.

Where can they appear? Cavities can happen on any tooth, but oftentimes, are seen on the back molars. Food particles can get easily stuck there and even with good-intentioned brushing and flossing, those molars can get missed. 

When can they develop? Cavities can establish themselves very early on, even when babies are just starting to show those little white buds through the gums. Mother’s breast milk has natural sugars, protein, fat and yes, carbohydrates to feed her baby. But, if mom or dad doesn’t wipe that milk away from the baby’s teeth after feeding, that could become the start of their very first cavity. Toddlers walking around with milk or juice in their sippy cups or kids who snack throughout the day are at higher risk for getting cavities because their teeth likely won’t be brushed afterwards. This is not the fault or intention of parents, they just aren’t aware what is happening in their children’s mouths. 

Why do cavities form? Tooth decay can be  caused when sugary, sticky or acidic foods are not washed, brushed and flossed away after eating. Over time, this can cause plaque build up which leads to decay. If left unchecked, tooth decay can cause major pain and could eventually lead to the expensive dental work. 

Who can get cavities? Anyone can get cavities, but prevention is the key. Below is a list of what you can do to keep a healthy, cavity free smile. 

How you can avoid getting cavities:

-Brush regularly (at least twice daily after eating)

-Floss daily

-Drink plenty of water

-Avoid highly processed carbohydrates, sweets and pop 

-Avoid snacking and drinking juices

-Visit your dentist regularly

Just remember that not everything or every time you eat, cavities will be forming. Just be aware that some foods are worse than others. Establishing good, healthy eating habits in the first place, will go along way to avoid dental problems in the future. 

About the Author

Colleen Layug

Weight Loss

Toronto Canada

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