If your family’s Easter holiday was like ours, you’re probably still feeling full from chocolate bunnies, marshmallow Peeps, sugar-glazed ham and coconut layer cake. Like many American holidays, we surround celebrations with yummy eats, most laden with sugar with a big percentage in carbohydrate form.
As a matter of fact, there are few holidays that don’t include sugary and starchy indulgences. We go from homemade fudge and sugar cookies at Christmas to pumpkin pies and candied yams at Thanksgiving followed by cream-filled chocolates at Valentine’s Day, sugar-filled Easter baskets, summertime ice-cream and colas and finally roll our way into a Halloween candy high.
We Americans love our sugar. So, it’s no surprise that the University College London and the London School of Hygiene cited the United States as the world’s highest consumer of sugar.
One of the most common diseases worldwide is tooth decay. When the University College and London School of Hygiene researched public health records from around the globe, they found that almost 90% of America’s school age children have had tooth decay. Adults with cavities came in even higher – 92%. When compared to other countries with a very low sugar diet, such as Nigeria where only 2% of the population have experienced tooth decay, the problem – and solution – seems pretty simple.
Yet, denying ourselves sugar and carbs is tough, especially when they stare us in the face so often . You can’t even go to a gas station without having sweet treats, sugary beverages, chips and ice cream within arm’s reach of the check-out counter. Even my dry cleaner has a stand of Tootsie Pops by the cash register.
Here is where the problem lies, however, as far as your dental health goes. All food or beverages create an acid attack in the mouth. This is a normal part of the digestion process. However, sugar and carbohydrates (which also break down into sugar) give oral bacteria an added boost. As bacteria reproduce in the mouth, tooth decay can occur more easily.
Because of the way sugar reacts in the mouth, it becomes a particular problem for teeth. Oral bacteria eat, reproduce and thrive on sugar as they attack gum tissues and tooth enamel. This onslaught of bacteria causes the gums to become inflamed, instigating the initial stage of periodontal (gum) disease. Not only does oral bacteria create cavities and gum disease, it is the leading factor in adult tooth loss.
Sugar’s destructive force on teeth is nothing new, of course. You may find it interesting that an architect and his team discovered early attempts at filling teeth, dating back 13,000 years. It is believed that the Upper Paleolithic era introduced changes in diet, including the cultivation of grains and other carbohydrates. In the mouth, these carbs break down into simple sugars and feed cavity-causing bacteria. Hence, cavities and other dental problems appeared with much greater frequency. (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/next/ancient/worlds-oldest-dental-fillings-packed-with-hair-asphalt-and-lots-of-pain/?utm_source=TWITTER&utm_medium=social&utm_term=20170411&utm_content=857321840&linkId=36410650)
The World Health Organization recommends no more than 5% of daily caloric intake from sugar. Sounds logical until you consider that sugar is everywhere. For example, look at the sugar content on the label of your pasta sauce, catsup or salad dressing. Being bombarded by hidden sugary ingredients can make it challenging to stick to the WHO’s 5% guideline.
Even with our best efforts to limit sugar and carbs, we are battling a powerful foe. Sugar is addictive, so much so that MRI scans show sugar activates the same regions in the brain as those turned on by cocaine. The problem is made worse by our ability to develop a tolerance. This means that the more sugar we eat, the more we crave. Simply put, this is a trait of drug addiction and symptom of substance dependency.
Sugar should be a minimal part of our daily intake. In addition to the damage that can occur from oral bacteria, a balanced diet of proteins and fiber from fruits and vegetables is better for your weight, heart and digestive system. To avoid dental repairs, be committed to twice daily brushing, daily flossing, and lots of drinking water.
If you are behind on your 6-month dental cleanings and check-ups, call toll free 1-866-9Smiles. During this time, we will remove bacterial build-up so you can avoid treatment time and expense in a dental chair.