While Americans struggle with obesity (now over one-third of adults), diabetes and an ever-increasing list of inflammatory diseases, they are finding it harder and harder to avoid sugar consumption. It seems to be an unavoidable part of our diets, added to everything from catsup to salad dressing.
Roughly, the average American consumes an average of 22 teaspoons a day. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends less than 6. Yet, it’s not just Americans who are over-consumers. As a matter of fact, the more developed a nation is, the higher the intake per person.
Germany is one of the highest consumers, averaging around 25 teaspoons a day. With increasing health costs to treat related diseases and conditions (including dental decay and periodontal disease), countries are starting to sit up and take steps to lessen the burden.
For example, Mexico began charging a sugar tax in 2014. The higher price tab got results. One year after it took effect, consumption of sugar-laden beverages decreased by 5 percent. Two years later, there was a 10 percent decrease. (www.dentistrytoday.com/news/industrynews/item/2290-sugar-consumption-costs-the-world-172-billion-in-dental-care).
Yet, nations agree that it will take more than imposing a tax. Our population needs to be educated.
Like our weight and the proper function of our bodies, sugar is also damaging to the health of your smile. Keep in mind that anything you eat triggers an acid attack in the mouth. This acid, which is a normal part of the digestive process, is potent enough to soften tooth enamel for up to 30 minutes after eating. When it mixes with the acids produced from sugar, the potential for damage spikes to an even higher level.
In dentistry, we advise chewing sugarless gum to keep the mouth moist and encourage saliva flow after eating. Saliva is your mouth’s natural rinsing agent that flushes food particles and oral bacteria out of the mouth before they can create damage.
American diets have changed drastically over the years, however. Rather than adhere to the “3 squares” each day (breakfast, lunch and dinner), Americans have become frequent snackers. Snacks are often full of sugar or are simple carbs, such as pretzels, chips or crackers.
Decades ago, Americans began seeing artificial sweeteners as a way to satisfy their sweet cravings while avoiding the calories. Today,, research on the negative effects of artificial sweeteners is causing people to turn back to sugar as a more “natural” sweetener.
Although artificial sweeteners have been one of the most studied of all substances with nearly 100 studies on Splenda (sucralose) alone, they are not risk-free. Nor are the latest findings showing they are helpful to weight loss. (www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/262475.php). Still, when it comes to your smile, we advise artificial sweeteners over sugar whenever it’s practical. Like sugar, of course, moderation is key.
To lessen the affects of an acid attack in the mouth, we recommend waiting 30 minutes afterwards to brush your teeth. By allowing the acid to dissipate, you’ll avoid wearing down precious tooth enamel from abrasive tooth brush bristles and tooth paste.
Also, remember that sugar, in any form, is not kind to your teeth.
You may also be interested in an article published by Scientific American (www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-sugar-and-fat-trick-the-brain-into-wanting-more-food/)
“It turns out that extremely sweet or fatty foods captivate the brain’s reward circuit in much the same way that cocaine and gambling do. For much of our evolutionary past, such calorie-dense foods were rare treats that would have provided much needed sustenance, especially in dire times. Back then, gorging on sweets and fats whenever they were available was a matter of survival. In contemporary society—replete with inexpensive, high-calorie grub—this instinct works against us.”
Our goal is to help you enjoy a smile that looks good, feels good and functions properly. By helping you prevent problems such as cavities and gum disease, we can also save you time and money needed for dental repairs.
Be committed to a thorough oral care regimen at home as well as keeping your 6-month check-ups. And, eat wisely. If it’s said “you are what you eat,” having a “sweet smile” should be a complement to your overall health.