The Standard Model of Tooth Decay – Sugar and Bacteria
If I were to ask you what causes tooth decay you would most likely answer eating too much sugar.
Sugar is the right answer but also it is also the wrong answer. Confused? How can eating too much sugar be both the right and wrong answer? Let me explain…
Dentists are trained that eating sugar and sugary foods and then not brushing properly causes tooth decay. The sugary food ferments on the tooth helped by bacteria in the mouth leading to acid production. The acid then dissolves your tooth enamel – the outer, hard layer of your tooth that you can see. Once the enamel dissolves there are tiny holes in it that bacteria can enter.
You eat more sugar, the bacteria produce more acid and the hole in your enamel gets deeper. Once the hole is deep enough the bacteria can now enter the next layer of your tooth – the dentine, which is not as hard as enamel. Dentine is more organic and the bacteria find that now they have two food sources, the sugar and your dentine.
So the bacteria eat away at your tooth, creating more acid and a bigger and bigger hole until you have a noticeable cavity or toothache.
Well that’s what I was taught anyway.
After 25 years in dentistry, however, this is not applicable to every single person who gets tooth decay.
There are those who eat a so called healthy diet and do not consume vast quantities of sugar yet get holes. Then there are those who do not get cavities for years and years then several appear all around the same time despite no changes in the individuals sugar habits whether this be low or high sugar intake.
And on the flip side there are cases where sugar consumption is higher than is recommended and yet there is a relatively low to zero decay rate.
How can that be if sugar is the evil mastermind behind tooth decay?
The Obsession With Bacteria and Sugar
Since the bacterial model or theory of decay was proposed by W.D. Miller in the 1890’s, dentistry has become obsessed and driven by the need to rid our mouths of bacteria and limit our dietary intake of sugar as its sole focus to prevent cavities. Limiting sugar intake is not a bad thing in regards to our overall health but it is not the only answer when it comes to preventing tooth decay.
The dental profession obviously realised its attempts to make dental cavities a thing of the past weren’t succeeding when the band aid approach of adding fluoride to the water supply was introduced in the 1950’s. Instead of admitting that the profession and science may be missing a significant piece of the puzzle of why we get dental decay they continued to flog the sugar, brush your teeth, floss and ingest a toxin called fluoride message to it’s own and your great detriment.
If bacteria and sugar consumption are the only reasons teeth decay then by now we should be seeing a reduction in cavities across populations not levels remaining the same or even increasing.
Let’s look at the sugar and bacteria cause tooth decay equation at little closer shall we in my next blog ‘Does Sugar Really Cause Tooth Decay?