One of the best things about a holiday—any holiday—is the candy! Chocolate shaped like chicks or stars or pumpkins. Unearthly colored marshmallows. Peanut butter, caramel, or nougat-filled; gooey, gummy, sweet treats. What’s not to love?
What’s not to love is what all that candy can do to your teeth. You’ve known since you were a child that candy is bad for your teeth because it can lead to cavities (or, in dentist language, “dental caries”). Here’s the lowdown on why.
The foundation of plaque
Even on freshly clean and polished teeth, glycoproteins (a combination of carbohydrate and protein) from saliva immediately start sticking to the enamel surface, creating the layer called “pellicle,” the first stage of plaque. And, almost immediately, bacteria that normally reside in the oral cavity stick to the glycoprotein pellicle. There are as many as 400 species of bacteria that can be found in the mouth. Together, the pellicle with the bacteria are known as a biofilm.
Now, take a bite of that marshmallow goodie. Notice that it’s sticky, so it may not be washed away with saliva as part of the mouth’s natural cleansing process. It’s sweet because of the sugar, and it can be any of several versions of sugar—glucose, sucrose, lactose, or others.
Bacteria love sugar, too
Any sugars in the mouth are as tasty a treat to those bacteria as they are to you. The bacteria, especially Streptococcus mutans, feed on the sugars to derive energy. As the sugar molecules are broken down through the bacteria’s digestion, they form lactic acid. This lactic acid, along with some other acidic compounds, can dissolve the calcium phosphate in the tooth enamel. And that’s the beginning of a cavity. With the breach in the enamel, more acids and other types of bacteria can find their way into the tooth, further eating at the enamel and enlarging the cavity. Bacteria also convert some of the sugar into a gluey substance that holds them close to the tooth, harder to wash away with saliva. In this way, the plaque holds the acid in contact with the enamel.
Plaque leads to gum disease
But cavities are only part of the problem that comes from dental plaque. After one to three days, the plaque starts attracting different kinds of bacteria that also form colonies. In about a week, a third kind of bacteria shows up, all forming complex ecosystems of their own. Among this third wave of bacteria are some bad boys known as Porphyromonas gingivalas (and others) that are associated with gum disease—gingivitis and periodontitis. Slight inflammation of the gums can begin within one to two weeks; significant inflammation can start as early as 14 days.
The good news is that plaque starts off soft and can be scrubbed away with a toothbrush. Dental floss and careful rinsing can help remove plaque from the hard-to-reach areas of the teeth. The build-up of bacteria and pellicle begins almost immediately, however, so it’s important to clean teeth at least twice every day. Otherwise, plaque can also calcify to become hard tartar. Removing tartar is difficult; best left to the dental professional.
The PerioSciences product line is intended to be part of a complete program of dental hygiene that includes proper, frequent brushing and flossing plus regular dental visits for professional cleaning. Our products –AO ProVantage dental gel and AO Pro Rinse—introduce antioxidants that help balance the normal chemistry in the oral cavity. Our rinses help with the process of washing away food particles—including those pesky sugars. Plus, the pleasant taste of our products comes from essential oils and plant-derived products. We use xylitol, a natural sweetener that does not nourish bacteria and convert to enamel-dissolving lactic acid.
Enjoy that candy. Just be sure to brush your teeth as soon as possible to minimize the sugars on the enamel. Or maybe just treat yourself to the healthy refreshing taste of AO ProVantage or AO ProRinse.