Why Most Animals Don't Get Cavities
I was walking by one of my children's rooms one day and I heard the familiar 'crunch crunch' of a guinea pig munching on a carrot. It occurred to me that almost every time I look at one of my children's guinea pigs, they are eating. This thought then triggered multiple other thoughts in my head including: wow-they eat all the time, never brush their teeth, and never get cavities-this goes against everything we teach our patients. However, it then occurred to me that guinea pigs don't eat sugar! Most animals don't eat any sugar and most animals never get cavities!
The average American eats 150 pounds of sugar a year! Another amazing fact is that 50% if that sugar comes from high fructose corn syrup in 'fat free' foods like salad dressings and pop!
It's a sort of gross detail to think about, but our mouths have tons of bacteria in them. One of these bacteria, streptococcus mutans, loves sugar. If you eat something sugary strep mutans goes nuts and eats and eats. This may sound like a good thing-if the bacteria eats the sugar then the sugar can't harm us, right? While this is a great thought, unfortunately, after strep mutans eats the sugar it then excretes acid. Even though the enamel on our teeth is tough stuff, it is not tough enough to endure multiple acid attacks. Therefore, when acids are in contact with our teeth for more than about 2 minutes it begins to erode the enamel. Erosion of enamel can then lead to tooth decay.
What's the take home point of the story? Basically we should all eat more like a Guinea Pig. Our diets should be focused mostly on fresh fruits and vegetables and items that contain sugar should be eaten occasionally and in short duration. Because we have so many foods today that contain 'hidden sugar' it is also great idea to go the extra mile and brush and floss our teeth, too!
Hopefully the guinea pig food manufacturer's won't start adding sugar to the guinea pig food any time soon-I can't imagine brushing their teeth!