Sugar plays a key role in tooth decay. The bacteria that forms together to become plaque uses sugar as a form of energy. They multiply faster and the plaque grows in size and thickness. Some of the bacteria turns the sugar into a sort of glue that they use to stick themselves to the tooth surface. This makes it harder for the bacteria to get washed away with your saliva. That is why it is important to limit your sugar intake for the health of your mouth. Here are some tips to cut back on the sugar in your diet.
- Toss the table sugar (both white and brown), syrup, honey and molasses. Cut back on the amount of sugar added to things you eat or drink regularly like cereal, pancakes, coffee or tea. Try cutting the usual amount of sugar you add by half and wean down from there.
- Swap out the soda. Buy sugar-free or low-calorie beverages. Water is always the best choice! If you decide to drink a soda, washing your mouth with water after is a good way to rid yourself of some of the sugars soda leaves behind.
- Eat fresh, frozen, dried or canned fruits. Choose fruit canned in water or natural juice. Avoid fruit canned in syrup, especially heavy syrup. Drain and rinse in a colander to remove excess syrup or juice.
- Compare food labels and choose products with the lowest amounts of added sugars. Dairy and fruit products will contain some natural sugars. Added sugars can be identified in the ingredients list.
- Choose fruit. Instead of adding sugar to cereal or oatmeal, try fresh fruit (bananas, cherries or strawberries) or dried fruit (raisins, cranberries or apricots) to sweeten your meal.
- Cut back where you can. When baking cookies, brownies or cakes, cut the sugar called for in your recipe by one-third to one-half. Often you won’t notice the difference.
- Try extracts. Instead of adding sugar in recipes, use extracts like almond, vanilla, orange or lemon.
- Replace it completely. Enhance foods with spices instead of sugar. Try ginger, allspice, cinnamon or nutmeg.
- Substitute. Switch out sugar with unsweetened applesauce in recipes (use equal amounts).
- Try non-nutritive sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose or saccharin in moderation. Non-nutritive sweeteners may be a way to satisfy your sweet tooth without adding more calories to your diet. The FDA has determined that non-nutritive sweeteners are safe.
What is the best way to combat sugar’s effects?
Constant vigilance is the key to preventing the negative effects of sugar on teeth. Limiting your sugar intake is always the best bet, but if that isn’t an option, brushing away bacteria-filled plaque regularly and consume healthy foods that strengthen the teeth. Add regular dental visits and fluoride treatments to the mix, and you and your loved ones have the best shot at winning the battle against sugar and tooth decay.
Do you have any questions about how sugar effects teeth? Call Westermeier Martin Dental Care to schedule an appointment with your dentist 716-508-4547.