Sugar – People consume an estimated 130 pounds of sugar per year. That’s a lot of sugar! But what’s not to like about sugar anyway?
- An expanding waistline
- Coronary heart disease
- Type II diabetes
- Metabolic syndrome
- High blood pressure
- and Cavities. That’s what!
All sugar has the same effect on your teeth – tooth decay. Yes, sugar and cavities go hand-in-hand. However, the total amounts of sugar you eat have less of an impact on your teeth than how often you consume the sugar. When you eat small amounts of sugar often versus eating large amounts not very often, you increase your possibility of cavities. That means a 12-oz can of soda is not as harmful to your tooth enamel if you drink all of it in a few minutes versus sipping those 12 ounces over a few hours. Here’s why:
Plaque, a sticky substance, is always forming on your teeth and gums. Plaque contains bacteria. The bacteria contained in the plaque feeds on the sugar in foods you eat or drink. Acids are created in about 20 seconds and last for about 30 minutes. Those acids can destroy your tooth enamel over time. Any acidic environment can promote tooth decay, so be sure to avoid eating anything sour or acidic. Sour plus sugar is especially harmful to your pearly whites!
The forms of sugar you consume matters as well. For example, whether you drink your sugar or eat it makes a difference in the impact sugar has on your teeth. Natural Gumption: Sound Oral Health Advice wrote, “The forms of sugars you ingest are also a significant factor in your overall oral health. A sugar that you drink and a sugar that you chew are both bad for your teeth but for different reasons. Sugars that come in liquid forms, such as sodas or juices, wash over your entire mouth and get into every nook and cranny of your teeth. This is harmful because, even with regular brushing, those sugars can sit in hard-to-reach places and allow bacteria to grow. Sugars that you chew are harmful because they can leave a larger than normal amount of residue on the teeth. This residue will not wash away with saliva; again, it creates a more than normal amount of substrate for bacteria.”
Tooth decay is the erosion or destroying of your tooth’s enamel. It’s kind of a big deal because it can lead to:
- changes in your bite or the way your upper and lower teeth come together
- a large reduction in the size of your back teeth
- tooth loss and/or extraction of unhealthy teeth
- the need for replacing dental work
- undergoing gum surgery
- the consideration of dental implants
Sugar, in one form or another, is in almost everything we eat, every day, all year long. So, how does someone prevent tooth decay? It’s easy.
- Brush and floss your teeth regularly
- Rinse with mouthwash
- Have your teeth checked and cleaned at least once a year, or better yet, twice a year.
- Avoid foods high in sugar
If you’re interested in reducing the amount of sugar you consume regularly, add the following steps to each day:
- Eat a variety of proteins (beef, poultry, eggs, fish, legumes, nuts and seeds), fresh fruits, whole grains and dairy. When you eat enough protein, you curb your desire for sweets.
- Drink lots of water. The rule of thumb is “drink half your weight in ounces of water daily.” Drink even more on excessively hot days and when you exercise. (If you weigh 200lbs, aim for 100 ounces of water. That’s about 6 16-oz bottles of water.) Water is crucial to your health. Read The Importance of Water in the Diet.
- Avoid drinking soda, pop, soft drinks (whatever you call carbonated beverages). Drink water, flavored water or green tea instead.
- Avoid eating candy and desserts or limit them to a small serving once or twice a week at least.
- Watch your snacking. It is recommended by nutritionists that five or six smaller meals be eaten throughout the day. Eating small meals more often provides optimal energy and health. Choose healthy snacks like raw vegetables, fruits, cheese, nut butters or nuts.
- Eat cheeses as cheese stops the acid attacks from sugar on your teeth.
Be aware of the controversy about the potential health risks associated with artificial sweeteners. “Low-sugar” or “sugar-free” products use artificial sweeteners. Research shows they can still create an acidic environment in your mouth.
If sugar has impacted your oral health with severe tooth decay or tooth loss, know this. You have options. Call Sherwood Dental at (780) 464-4166 today to find out about the options available to you. Ask about a free consultation.