While many people enjoy the occasional cookie or bowl of ice cream, too much of a good thing can be bad for your health. This is especially true when it comes to foods and beverages high in sugar. People who regularly consume sugar are at a higher risk for developing tooth decay and other oral health conditions. Fortunately, you can avoid the drawbacks of sugary treats by understanding how it harms your dental health and how to minimize the effects of sugary foods and drinks.
How Does Sugar Affect Dental Health?
Contrary to popular belief, sugar is not directly responsible for harming your oral health. Instead, it’s the process that occurs after you’ve consumed sugar that damages the teeth and gums.
The mouth contains hundreds of different species of bacteria, some beneficial to oral health and others harmful. When you consume sugar, the harmful bacterium in the mouth uses the sugar to produce acids that strip minerals from tooth enamel.
Consumption of sugar can also lower the pH levels in the mouth, making the environment even more acidic. As acids are created and pH levels plummet, erosions or small holes can develop in the teeth that can ultimately lead to cavities.
In addition to increasing your risk of developing cavities, sugar also attracts bad bacteria that can cause gingivitis and gum disease. If left untreated, gingivitis can advance to a more serious condition known as periodontitis.
The bacteria associated with this condition can spread through the body, invading connective tissue, joints, and organs, such as the liver, kidneys, and lungs. In some instances, gum disease can even result in coronary artery disease.
What Types of Food Contain Sugars?
While most people are aware of the high amounts of sugar in items like candies and sodas, other types of food and beverages can also be high in sugar. In fact, you might not even realize that many of the foods you eat contain hidden sugars.
For example, natural sugars can be found in foods like maple syrup, honey, and molasses. When reviewing the ingredient lists on the foods you buy, watch for hidden offenders like maltose, fructose, dextrose, corn syrup, and evaporated cane juice.
How to Reduce the Effects of Sugar on Oral Health
Untreated tooth decay is the most prevalent condition in the world, affecting over 2.5 billion people, according to Frontiers in Oral Health Journal. Excess sugar consumption is a leading cause of cavities and other oral diseases. While it may not be possible to completely cut out all sugars from your diet, there are things you can do to reduce your exposure to harmful sugars.
- Limit your daily consumption of sugar.
- Drink water after eating or drinking sugar to help neutralize the acids in the mouth.
- Chew sugar-free gum to reduce inflammation and your risk of tooth decay.
- Brush your teeth after eating or drinking sugary foods or beverages.
- Floss regularly to remove harmful bacteria and plaque buildup.
- Reduce your carbohydrate intake as carbs turn into sugar in the mouth.
- Avoid sugary, sticky foods that can stick to the teeth, such as candies.
- Use fluoride toothpaste to help strengthen your enamel.
There are also other things you can do to help minimize your exposure to harmful sugars, such as choosing healthier alternatives. Eat a balanced and nutritious diet that contains fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein, and low-fat dairy. When choosing snacks, opt for healthy choices like peanut butter, cheese, and yogurt.
When shopping for food, carefully check the labels for “hidden” sugars. Whenever possible, substitute water for other beverages that may contain sugar, such as fruit juices and soda. It’s also best to limit snacking in between meals to avoid long-term exposure to the teeth from sugar.
Schedule an Appointment with Hancock Village Dental
At Hancock Village Dental, our team of experienced dental professionals works hard to meet your unique oral health needs, whether you need a routine cleaning, require a restoration, or wish to fix a cosmetic flaw. Contact our dentist in Clermont today to learn more about our services or to schedule an appointment.