Ask the Gentle Dentist                                          December 2014

The relationship between excessive sugar intake and tooth decay.

In our dental practice I am constantly in contact with new patients who have been addicted to soda pop, candy, chips and other snacks which are high in sugar and acid. To be quite honest I get very frustrated with the fact that they have been doing this and have no awareness or correlation that the pop is affecting their teeth. They will often need at least $2000-$4000 of dentistry including root canals, multiple fillings, crowns, extractions, bridges and just about anything we can do. I will ask if they drink Mountain Dew, Pepsi or Coke and “The Dew” seems to be the favorite. There is actually high levels of sugar in a number of energy drinks and even in Ensure.   Unfortunately, these individuals have ignorantly been sipping on these drinks which have up to 40 grams of sugar per 12 oz. This, in combination with the fact that these drinks contain phosphoric acid makes them just right to dissolve the enamel off of the tooth surface.   When sugar comes in contact with teeth, the bacteria that naturally sticks to the teeth metabolize the sugars and form lactic acid as a byproduct. As one sips on the pop there is constant dissolving of the mineral layer and eventually black or white lines start to form on the fronts of the teeth. This is the beginning of a cavity. I tell my patients that if they have the urge to drink the pop, soft drinks, energy drinks, etc. that it is best to be done at one setting rather than throughout the day.   The constant exposure doesn’t allow the body’s saliva to buffer and re-mineralize the tooth structure. Our saliva has the enzymes and ability to repair the damage as long as there is enough time to do so between intake of pop.

This problem with dental decay also exists with our senior patients. The difference is that they don’t have the levels of naturally occurring saliva that younger patients have so they are at an even higher risk of getting cavities. Seniors suffer from a lack of saliva from being on multiple medications, autoimmune diseases such as Sjogens syndrome and as a natural process of aging. This makes them more vulnerable to these sugar attacks. A big problem is that they use candies containing sugar to suck on to stimulate saliva flow to lubricate the mouth. This perpetual attack and decay continues unless there is a break in the cycle.

Obviously, it is best to drink water when thirsty as our body needs this and it is the most natural and needed item to sustain life. Unfortunately, many times those who are addicted to the pop say “I don’t like the taste of water”. What they are really saying is that they have an affinity and addiction to sugar and the caffeine. If this describes you then it is best to make sure you brush your teeth at least twice per day to remove the plaque. Rinsing with plain water immediately after drinking the soft drink and using fluoride are beneficial to help re-mineralize and strengthen the teeth.

Alternative substitutes to sugar have been tried but in my opinion there is no better substitute than xylitol. Why Xylitol? It strengthens teeth, reduces tooth decay, reduces cavity-causing bacteria, inhibits growth of dental plaque, stimulates saliva flow, 40% less calories than sugar, and the best…it is delicious and satisfying. This alternative sweetener has been used in Europe with consistent findings of reduced cavities formed. Even though it has all of the listed benefits available it costs more to use than table sugar. Since this is an altered sugar the bacteria in the mouth can’t identify this as a food source and therefore will not metabolize it and form the dreaded acid. One must be careful when consuming any product excessively. If xylitol is consumed excessively bloating, flatulence and diarrhea can be experienced.   If you are a diabetic or struggle with cavities it may be of interest to know that we have candy and gum in our office that contains Xylitol, just stop in to purchase some!   It is only $5 for a canister.

Implant seminar

Due to poor planning on my part I presented a mini seminar to the public on implant dentistry before November’s article went to press . I will be repeating the informational seminar in February. Stay tuned as I will have the dates solidified soon and will announce in January’s article.   A few issues emerged during the presentation such as a woman who had all of her teeth extracted and how she was doing very poorly with her new denture and wanted to know how dental implants could help her. Another woman had a fixed bridge that was failing and she wanted to know how dental implants could help her to replace the tooth that needed to be extracted. There were a few other issues that people had to deal with and I had given them what I believe was in depth information and answered their questions as best as I could considering we were at a Biggby’s coffee shop. I look forward to presenting this information and answering your questions in February.

Candy Buy Back

I want to report that our candy buy back was quite a success. We had collected about 350 pounds worth of candy during the event and thank those who had done so. If you have some candy still laying around your house you can drop it off at our office and I will put it to good use.

May you all have a Blessed Christmas and realize that Jesus is the reason for the season and not the amount of gifts that you give or receive. God gave His most precious gift to us at Christmas who is Jesus, His only son. Rom_10:9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Have a safe Christmas and a Blessed New Year!

Sugar addiction and Dental Implant Seminar

If you have any questions about sugar addiction and dental implant seminar please contact me by visiting our website at  and fill out our contact form or call the office at (586)247-3500. Our address is 15055 22 Mile, Shelby Twp. 48315.