Sugar Culture and Dental Care

dental_careWhile public awareness of the risks of excessive sugar consumption has increased substantially over the past decade, dental care professionals have been aware of sugar’s negative impact on oral health for generations. There has been a sharp rise in our per-capita consumption of sugar in the United States over the past 40 years, and this has resulted in serious consequences to our collective well-being. Read on to discover why reducing the amount of sugar in your diet should be considered an extension of your dental care regimen.

Sugar consumption, diet and your teeth

  • What we eat affects the integrity of our teeth. Sugars and other fermentable carbohydrates fuel the actions of oral bacteria, which in turn lower plaque and salivary pH, leading to the formation of plaque and beginning the tooth-decay process.
  • Over the past 40 years, Americans have increased their consumption of processed (convenience) foods, which often have large amounts of “invisible sugars,” even in products you wouldn’t ordinarily expect to contain much sugar (such as barbecue-flavored potato chips).
  • Processed foods are sometimes engineered for maximum tastiness, which means that they are hyper-rewarding. This leads to consuming higher amounts of sugar than we might have originally intended to, because it’s very hard to stop eating these products.
  • If you’re trying to pay attention to your health, even taking some product information at face value can be misleading. Many products labeled “low-fat” make up the flavor gap by adding sugar. And sports drinks and other supposedly “healthy” beverages often contain high levels of sugar.
  • Even avoiding sugar by substituting “sugar-free” products may not protect your teeth. Sugarless sodas and sugarless gum can contain citric acids, which eat away at tooth enamel. Also, there is some evidence that consuming artificially sweetened products can actually increase our cravings for sugar.

The easiest ways to reduce your consumption of sugar in order to protect your teeth are to carefully read food labels, aim to eat more whole, unprocessed foods, and to engage in good dental care, including visiting your dentist regularly.

“It’s crucial for dental health that we become more savvy ‘sugar detectives’ and avoid its more insidious forms,” says Dr. Carol Ford, a cosmetic dentist practicing in central Phoenix.


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