Most teens and adults understand that sugar causes tooth decay. More specifically, what happens in your mouth after you consume sugar is what causes you to need a trip to the dentist. Let’s take a closer look at how sugar can lead to cavities and gum disease, and what you can do to lessen those risks.
What Sugar Does to Your Teeth
Sugar is appealing to us because it simply tastes great. And there are far more foods on the grocery store shelf that have high sugar content than most of us are aware of. Most people know there’s sugar in desserts and sodas, but don’t realize that things like fruit juices, flavored yogurt, sandwich condiments and many other foods have a high sugar content.
Do you know what else loves sugar? All the unhealthy bacteria in your mouth!
When we eat or drink sugary things, oral bacteria have a feast on the sugary contents that coat our teeth. After the bacteria enjoys a sugary meal, they start to excrete an acidic substance that eats away the enamel coating on the teeth. Eventually, that leads to cavities, periodontal disease and other problems if untreated.
Sugar by Other Names
If you want to reduce the sugar intake in your diet, you’re going to have to learn to recognize some of the names that sugar hides behind on product labels. In some foods, it’s simply labeled “Sugar.” But in others, it gets tricky to identify.
Any type of “syrup” listed on a product label is also sugar. It might be called “rice syrup” or “high fructose corn syrup.” Other products that are scientifically the same as sugar (without calling themselves sugar) include agave nectar, honey, and fruit juices.
Another type of ingredient to watch for is anything that ends with the suffix “-ose.” Fructose, sucrose, lactose, dextrose and other similar names are used to hide the fact that it’s just plain old sugar!
What’s a Healthy Amount of Sugar?
The American Heart Association has published guidelines on how much sugar men and woman should consume if they want to avoid health problems. If you’re concerned about your teeth and your overall health, you will want to try to reduce your daily sugar intake below these levels:
- Women: 25 grams per day (about 6 teaspoons)
- Men: 36 grams per day (about 9 teaspoons)
This sounds easy until you realize that a single can of cola has about 33 grams of sugar in it. Additionally, many other foods on the grocery store shelves have similar sugar content!
Healthy Sugar Replacements
The type of sugar that you consume can make a difference in its effects on your teeth and your overall health. Whole foods in their natural form, for example, are much healthier than processed alternatives. Our bodies are better adapted to process sugars from whole foods as well.
One example of this is eating a fresh apple, as opposed to drinking concentrated apple juice. The body absorbs the sugar from the apple juice much easier, meaning it will turn into fat cells. The sugar in a fresh apple, by comparison, is trapped with fiber and water; it’s harder for the body to absorb that sugar, and it’s also much less likely to stick to your teeth where it can start to do real damage.
Sugar-free sweeteners like Stevia can also provide some sweetness in foods if you’re really struggling with cutting out the sugar.
Regular Vero Beach Dental Checkups
Taking good care of your teeth is another way to prevent sugars and harmful bacteria from damaging them. Follow a strict regimen of brushing after every meal and again before bed, and flossing at least once a day.
It’s also important to keep those twice-a-year appointments at your Vero Beach or Melbourne, Florida office. We’ll give your teeth a professional cleaning and watch for early warning signs of tooth decay. Preventive medicine before a problem advances is always the best choice!
If it’s been a while since your last appointment, contact us at Vero Implants & Periodontics. We’ll get you scheduled for your next appointment at one of our convenient locations.