Dental caries is a multifactorial disease characterized as an infectious process where carbohydrates are fermented by oral bacteria, resulting in acid production and enamel dissolution. Fermentable sugars include glucose, fructose, sucrose, and lactose (occurring naturally in milk). One of the oral bacteria that has the ability to ferment sugars and modified starches to produce acid, is Streptococcus mutans. Non-sugar sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose are not metabolized by oral bacteria and therefore do not produce acid leading to decay. Xylitol is also a non-fermentable sweetener produced from fruit and vegetables that has the ability to reduce the numbers and adherence of Streptococcus in the mouth. To reduce the risk of dental caries, the quantity, frequency, and duration of exposure to sugar-sweetened beverages and food needs to be controlled. Other recommendations for reducing the risk of caries:
- Consume sugar-sweetened beverages at meal times only
- Replace sugar with artificial sweeteners, such as Xylitol or transition to unsweetened beverages
- Brush with fluoridated toothpaste after consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages or foods
- Chew sugar free gum if unable to brush immediately, or rinse mouth with water.
- Customized anti-bacterial protocol with supplemental fluoride for high caries risk patients
Talk to your dental team about how to assess your caries risk and ways to prevent disease.