How to Reduce Sugar Intake to Improve Your Oral Health

A pile of gummy candies

Everyone wants a healthy set of teeth. From a beautiful smile to pain-free eating, avoiding cavities is something everyone can agree is a great health goal. But the standard Western diet doesn’t do much for preventing cavities – and it often hinges on the excessive amount of sugar in our everyday foods or drinks. If you want to avoid cavities, you need to find ways to reduce sugar intake on a daily basis.

Read on to learn more about how you can reduce sugar intake in your diet, and ways to enjoy your favorite sugary foods while causing the minimal amount of harm to your teeth or gums.

Why Reducing Sugar Intake is Important for Dental Health

Like anything in nutrition, sugars serve a specific purpose and it’s partly why they’re so popular with food producers and consumers alike. On the production side, sugar makes foods taste sweet, which for most, makes foods more appealing. This applies to adults and children alike!

For consumers, this sweet flavor is obviously popular. But your brain also loves sugars, because they’re easy and dense for converting into energy. This is one of the reasons why we crave sugar even when we’re trying to eat healthy.

However, sugar’s long-term effects are well known throughout medical professionals. It can lead to problems like obesity, diabetes, and, when it comes to dental health, serious tooth decay issues.

Sugar isn’t just fuel for our bodies, it’s also fuel for the bacteria that live in our mouths. Even the best brushing and flossing routine can’t eliminate all the bacteria. As you eat foods or drinks high in sugar, bacteria and plaque on your teeth or gums will use it for their own energy. This isn’t inherently bad – but the waste products left behind by bacteria after converting this sugar into energy is extremely acidic. Over time, this acidity wears through your tooth enamel and irritates your gums.

The more sugar you have in your diet, the more frequently your mouth will be assaulted by the bacteria living within. More cavities and more irritation can lead to inflammation, gum disease, and even the loss of your teeth!

The Most Common Sources of Sugar in Your Diet

Sodas & Juices

It’s no secret that one of the most common sources of sugar in our modern diet is soft drinks and the overall family of flavored beverages. From energy drinks to sports drinks and more, if it’s more than water, it’s likely a source of sugar in your diet!

If you’ve ever looked at the label, you may have realized just how much sugar is in these drink options. It’s significant – and that spells problems for your health beyond just your teeth! Heavy soda drinking is correlated with a higher risk of insulin resistance too.

Even fruit juices often have high amounts of added sugars. They may be sold as “healthy” options but they’re far from it. If you’re looking to reduce sugar intake in your diet, the best place to start is to cut back on drinks that aren’t water.

Candy & Confections

Second to soft drinks, candy and confections are an unsurprising source of a massive amount of sugar in the standard western diet. Chocolate, gummies, cookies, cake and everything else that’s so delicious is a favorite specifically because of the high amounts of sugar that make it taste so sweet.

You’ll also want to keep in mind that some of these candies cause issues due to the texture too! Gummy and taffy candy in particular sticks to your teeth, feeding sugar to bacteria for long periods of time after you’ve finished eating.

When reducing sugar intake, reducing these types of treats is a given. You can find good alternatives to some of these favorites by choosing darker chocolate that has less sugar in it.

Low-Fat Foods

If you’re trying to eat healthier, you may gravitate towards foods labeled as “low in fat.” It makes sense on the surface, but unfortunately these low-fat foods are often far from the healthiest option. “Fat” in foods gets a bad rap – there are healthy fats and there are unhealthy ones. It’s not bad to have foods high in fat, depending on the type of fat used to make them!

More importantly though, fat in foods helps give it appetizing flavor. When creating low-fat versions, food producers turn to an alternative to make these foods appealing – sugar! Low-fat almost always mean high in sugar, making these foods often worse than the versions that are higher in fat, both for your body and your teeth.

It’s Not Just Volume – It’s About Timing

When it comes to reducing sugar intake for the sake of your oral health, take note that the sugar volume isn’t the primary risk. While high sugar intake is bad for your body as a whole, when it comes to your teeth, the real culprit is timing.

Bacteria in your teeth can only use so much sugar at a time. If you have an extremely sugary soda or a lightly sugared snack, the main difference will be in how long it takes you to eat them. While a single chocolate treat can be finished quickly, most soda drinkers sip their soft drink over several minutes. This sipping behavior reintroduces sugar to your mouth every time you drink, essentially replenishing the supply of sugar for the bacteria in your mouth.

If you can’t fight the cravings for your favorite soft drink or sugary snack, the best thing you can do for your teeth is to enjoy it quickly. The sooner you finish it, the sooner your saliva or the water you drink afterwards can help wash away remnants of the sugars to deprive bacteria from their sustenance.

Do You Have Dental Health Questions? Schedule an Appointment!

If you have dental health concerns or just looking for information, the professionals at Walbridge Dental provide complete family dental care to families in the Millbury community. Contact us online to set up an appointment now or call us at 419-836-1033.

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