Why Does Sugar Cause Tooth Pain?


It’s no secret that sugar isn’t good for your teeth. Excess sugar consumption can cause a variety of problems due to the fact that sugar fuels bacteria growth, contributing directly to gum disease, cavities, and other forms of tooth decay. Sugar can also have some other effects on teeth: like heat and cold, sugary foods can contribute to tooth pain for those with sensitive teeth. But why is that? It’s important to understand how it works as it helps illustrate some of the effects sugar has, so let’s take a look.

Causes of Sensitive Teeth

Sensitive teeth are a fairly common problem, unfortunately. Generally speaking, sensitivity is the result of damage to the tooth. While this can be a crack or a chip, it’s most often caused when the hard enamel outer layer of the tooth wears down. As it grows thinner, the more sensitive inner portions of the tooth are more directly exposed to heat, cold, and other outside stimuli. This can lead to pain. The pain may come and go or may be persistent.

So what causes enamel to thin? Generally, a diet combined with poor brushing and flossing habits is to blame. Excess sugar in the diet can cause bacterial growth which in turn leads to tooth decay and the wearing away of enamel. This can cause cavities, but it can also lead to sensitive teeth. Consuming too many acidic foods and drinks–sodas and citrus juices are prime culprits–can have the same effect as the acids work directly to erode enamel.

Enamel erosion can lead to tooth damage or even tooth loss, so it’s important to understand the causes and take preventative measures.

What Triggers Tooth Pain from Sensitive Teeth?

So now that we know a bit about what causes sensitive teeth, let’s look at what triggers pain in teeth prone to sensitivity. A variety of things can trigger pain in sensitive teeth. Heat and cold are common culprits, particularly noticeable when hot or cold beverages are being consumed. Likewise acidic foods–often the causes of worn enamel–can cause a painful sensation when consumed by those with sensitive teeth. And likewise, sugary or sweet food can cause tooth pain if you’re already prone to sensitive teeth. The thinner enamel can’t keep out the external sensations caused by these foods, and the end result is a pain for the nerves of the tooth.

Preventing Sensitive Teeth

So how can we prevent sensitive teeth? Well, the most important thing is to protect and preserve the enamel of the tooth. This is accomplished in a variety of ways, chiefly via a healthy diet and a regular brushing and flossing routine. Combined with visits to the dentist’s office for an exam and cleaning, this takes care of most oral health needs.

Avoiding sugary and acidic foods is a must. While occasionally indulging isn’t going to hurt anything, please keep it to a minimum and afterward rinse your mouth with water to help remove excess sugars and acids. Likewise, during athletic activity, it’s best to wear a mouthguard to protect your teeth and gums. These are available at most athletic supply stores.

Your teeth and gums should provide a lifetime of service, without pain. By maintaining your oral health, you can avoid the issues that lead to sensitive teeth or even worse problems. At Burgiss DDS, we’re here to help keep your teeth healthy for years to come. Make an appointment today and we’ll talk about your oral health needs and how we can best serve you.