Dentists warn against eating or drinking too much sugar for a reason. Sugar harms not only your teeth, but also your gums. If your gums are sore eating sugar, you may have a serious condition that requires the dreaded, extended stay in the dentist's chair.
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Sugar and Teeth
Whenever you eat sugar, it comes in contact with the plaque on your teeth and gums, causing acid to attack your teeth for at least 20 minutes. This can cause tooth decay because the acid wears away your tooth enamel; that’s when you get cavities. Over time, you may suffer the gum disease gingivitis.
When plaque stays on your teeth for two days or more, the plaque hardens and forms tartar at your gumline. No matter how well you brush or floss, you may not be able to remove the tartar. Eventually, the tartar irritates your gums and you begin to show signs of gingivitis. Your gums may become red, swollen and painful, and they may even bleed. Eating sugar may worsen your symptoms.
To prevent gingivitis and the resulting sore gums, the American Dental Association recommends maintaining a healthy diet, based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food pyramid guidelines. You will always have some sugar in your diet because even healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, contain some sugar. But, you can cut back on the “bad” sugar in sweets and snacks. Eliminate soft drinks, which may contain as much as 11 teaspoons of sugar per serving, cites the ADA. Drink plenty of water, and keep a food diary if that helps you stay on a healthy diet.
You can’t treat gingivitis on your own. Your dentist will give you a thorough cleaning to remove the plaque and tartar. You may find the cleaning especially painful on your gums. You can take anti-inflammatory medication to reduce the gum swelling. After your cleaning, you should limit your sugar intake, and practice good oral hygiene. Floss and use an antiseptic mouth rinse at least once a day. Brush at least twice a day with a toothpaste bearing the ADA seal of approval. Brush your teeth immediately after consuming a sugary food or drink.
If you catch gingivitis early, your doctor should be able to treat it in one office visit, although your gums may still be sore for up to two weeks. However, untreated gingivitis leads to periodontitis, which can cause tooth loss, and increase your risk for heart attack and stroke. Periodontitis also increases a pregnant woman’s risk of giving birth prematurely.