FACTS: Everyone knows that sugar is bad for your teeth. But why is that so? Because Streptococcus mutans bacteria love to eat it!
S. mutans is the leading cause of tooth decay and a primary component of dental plaque. By eating sugars such as fructose (found in fruits), lactose (found in milk), and glucose (found in the starches of breads, pastas, cereals, and potatoes), S. mutans creates lactic acid that dissolves the minerals that make up your teeth. As these minerals dissolve, holes – or cavities – are created.
But like any sweet-tooth, S. mutans is most fond of the sugary sucrose found in cookies, cakes, candies, and soda! When sucrose is on the menu, S. mutans is able to produce not only acid, but also a sticky substance which helps it stay on your teeth – as plaque.
The more the plaque layer thickens and hardens, the more acid is produced and concentrated against your teeth, and the greater the risk of dental decay.
Because cavities are to a large extent a contagious disease (normally contracted by infants from family members when their baby teeth come in), scientists are actively working on vaccines to help prevent infection.
But in the meantime, the best thing you can do to help your teeth stay healthy and strong is to brush and floss regularly – and avoid sugary foods.
They’ll smile if you do!
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