Oh sugar. It tastes so sweet and sets tastes buds tingling. We all know it's bad in so many ways. Having detrimental effects on overall health due to effects on weight, liver, heart and contributing to the likelihood of Type II diabetes.
So is sugar really the worst for teeth health too..?
When sugar meets bacteria in plaque a reaction occurs forming acids that attack teeth and erode the enamel over time. Thus eventually resulting in cavities requiring fillings or tooth extraction. Saliva does its best to neutralize acid from food but loses the battle if constantly bombarded with acids swilling around the mouth.
Public health warnings focus on sugar as the main culprit of tooth decay.. but are they correct to do so?
This article blames sugar for increasing dental health issues in the UK, particularly children. Often the decay cannot be spotted until it's too late. Over CAD $60 million is spent per year on children's tooth extractions.
Celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver, is on a crusade to improve food labelling (and highlight the, often hidden, sugar content), educate people and also penalise food and drink companies.
Contrary to the previous article, this one does not lay all the blame for tooth decay on sugar alone.
Rather, it states that the main dangers come from foods which stick onto teeth rather than being quickly washed away. Potato chips and raisins therefore could be even worse. Unless you brush carefully after eating them, lingering carbohydrates that then break down into sugar glucose can just carry on attacking tooth enamel.
This handy table shows the shocking level of sugar, and also the acidity level, of various fruit drinks.
The combination of sugar, high acidity and sipping - thus keeping a constant stream of sugars and acids entering the mouth - give saliva no chance to neutralise it all.
Dentists suggest that, due to the weakening effect on teeth of acid, it's best to swish and drink water straight after, then brush an hour later.
Tips to Protect Your Teeth
- Studies show that frequency of eating can be as detrimental as the content of foods. Snack less, sip less and brush after meals to give your mouth the change to re-neutralise and wash away those pesky acids.
- If you just can't do without a burst of sweetness here and there, save that cake, icecream or chocolate bar and eat it after meals, rather than between.
- Combine fruits and fruit juices with calcium, e.g. cheese, which neutralises acid.
- And never forget to FLOSS!