Junk food is high in salt, fat, sugar and refined carbohydrates. It often tastes delicious and can be quick and convenient on busy days, but it's far from harmless. Regularly consuming junk food is associated with an increased risk of developing heart disease and diabetes, but it's also detrimental to the health of your teeth. No one's saying you can't have the occasional treat, but if you're regularly eating a junk food diet, you should be aware of how it can impact on your oral health.
Tooth Enamel Erosion
Certain types of junk food, such as carbonated drinks and sour sweets, are highly acidic and can damage the protective layer of enamel on your teeth. Tooth enamel erosion causes discolouration and exposes the tooth's soft pulp and nerve endings to bacteria, which can lead to you developing a painful infection. To improve the appearance of teeth with enamel erosion and offer some protection, you will require veneers, which can be costly depending on how many teeth are affected.
Refined carbohydrates are high in simple sugars and leave a sticky residue on your teeth. Bacteria feed on this residue and plaque builds up on your teeth and along your gum line. Plaque can cause bad breath, cavities and gum disease and needs to be removed by a dentist to prevent permanent damage to the surface of your teeth. Untreated plaque can inflame your gum tissue and allow a bacterial infection to take hold. This type of infection along the gum line can lead to an abscess developing, which is painful and can lead to tooth loss.
The high sugar content of junk food can increase your risk of developing tooth decay and speed up the decay of affected teeth. Bacteria feed on sugar and multiply, and this can change the pH level in your mouth to create an environment that's perfect for the continued growth of detrimental bacteria, so the damage continues and intensifies over time. Tooth decay can lead to sensitivity, pain, bad breath, infection and tooth loss. When treated early with a dental filling a decayed tooth can often be saved, but the cycle of decay will continue if you continue eating junk food regularly.
Unlike some whole foods, junk food tends to offer no benefit to your oral health. If you eat a lot of junk food, keep up with your regular dental check-ups and ask your dentist to recommend a dental hygiene routine and products you can use to minimise the risk to your oral health.