Cookies, gingerbread, mulled wine and other sweet treats are omnipresent, especially in the run-up to Christmas: the supermarket shelves are full of them, on the Christmas markets they are abound, and of course sweets will be given away on St. Nicholas Day - especially the children are happy about it. The pre-Christmas period is the epitome of feasting and enjoying. The consequences we all know: The Hosenbund pinches and for many is losing weight therefore first good intent in the new year. But not only stomach and hips, especially the teeth suffer from the permanent sweet feasting.
Sugar as a cause of tooth decay
Table sugar, fructose, cane sugar and dextrose belong to the simple (low-molecular) carbohydrates and are part of numerous sweets. These sugars are "main foods" of caries-causing bacteria that accumulate in plaque or biofilm, especially in the plaque.
This bacterial plaque consists of a mixture of endogenous secretions, food residues and microorganisms. The metabolism of the sugars creates an acidic environment on the tooth surface. This leads to a dissolution of the tooth hard substance: The result is tooth decay. In the process, minerals such as calcium and phosphorus are extracted from the enamel (demineralization).
Attack on the enamel
Plaque bacteria can produce so much acid even with the supply of very small amounts of sugar that a decrease of the plaque pH to the acidic range can be detected. "Each single intake of fermentable carbohydrates leads to a temporary, about 30 to 40 minutes lasting pH drop in the plaque, " explains Professor Joachim Klimek. However, if sufficient time is then available without further sugar-containing food intake, the neutralizing effect of the saliva can "recover" the enamel from the acid attack. This process is called remineralization.
However, if sweets are eaten again and again in the course of the day, the acid attacks can overlap in time or follow each other so closely that the enamel has no chance to recover, demineralization progresses and ultimately leads to tooth decay. "Numerous studies have shown that it is not the amount of added sugar that is crucial for the development of caries, but the frequency of sugar intake, " says Professor Klimek.
Note Kariogene's potential
It has been shown that a variety of factors can influence the cariogenic potential of a product: In addition to the type and amount of carbohydrates contained, the residence time of a product in the oral cavity also plays an important role. The longer food remains on the teeth or in the interdental spaces, the longer the plaque bacteria receive replenishment of fermentable carbohydrates.
For example, this applies especially to caramel chocolate products, but even more so to chips, crackers and cookies, which are consumed especially frequently in the run-up to Christmas. The pH remains at a low, cariogenic level for a long time following consumption of such products.
Hidden sugar in food
Often overlooked are "hidden sugars". A significant proportion of low molecular weight sugar include, for example:
- fruit yoghurt
- Hamburger buns
- Vegetable and fruit juice
- granola bar
So to give your teeth the opportunity to remineralise, it's not just important what you eat, but how often you eat it.
If you do not want to miss sweets, you should snack as rarely as possible, preferably after the main meal. Before reaching for the toothbrush, rinse your mouth with clear water. If no toothbrush is available, a dental chewing gum (xylitol chewing gum) can help restore the neutral environment in the mouth.
In foods that serve as a sweet snack, sugar substitutes such as sorbitol, xylitol, and mannitol are commonly used today. These sugar alcohols have been shown to be non-cariogenic or have negligible cariogenic potential. Such products can be said to be gentle to the teeth if, in a so-called in-situ test, the pH of the plaque does not fall below the limit of 5.7.
For example, calcium-rich foods are generally tooth-friendly, as they counteract the demineralization of the teeth. Good calcium suppliers are milk, dairy, green vegetables, almonds and some mineral waters. Also recommended is a fiber-rich whole foods, which must be chewed intensively. This stimulates the salivation and thus supports remineralization.
Fluorides protect against tooth decay
In order to promote the remineralization of the teeth, it is also sensible to supply the teeth with fluorides. They inhibit bacterial growth and counteract plaque formation by sealing the teeth with a calcium fluoride shell, which is first removed from the enamel during an acid attack.
In addition, they can conditionally replace minerals extracted from the tooth. To prevent tooth decay with fluorides, the dentist is the appropriate contact person.
So that the teeth do not suffer excessively in the Advent season and the joy of the sweet treats at the Christmas market is not tarnished, one should note the following: enjoy confectionery and as seldom as possible always combined with main meals, a regular and thorough oral hygiene with a fluoride toothpaste and look for a balanced, healthy diet for all sweet temptations.