As World Oral Health Day (WOHD) approaches on 20 March 2015, FDI World Dental Federation is advising people to consider the impact of frequent sugar consumption on their ‘smile for life’.
Dr Tin Chun Wong said: ‘World Oral Health Day 2015: “Smile for life!” has a double meaning – lifelong smile and celebrating life. Smiling implies self-confidence and having fun, as people only smile if they are happy and have a healthy life. Please take the time to consider your oral health and bring a smile to everyone around you.’
The controversy around sugar has been long standing. The sweet poison has been shown to have detrimental effects linked to various parts of the body including the heart, brain and other vital organs.
Now what can it do to the teeth? Sugar is a fuel for the bacteria in your mouth to rot the teeth away. Indeed;
- There is evidence to show that both the frequency and the amount of sugars consumed are associated with dental decay.
- Current dietary guidelines recommend at least five portions of fruit and vegetables per day. Fruit provides essential nutrients and its consumption is negatively associated with several chronic diseases. Fruit does contain sugars. However their sugars are associated with acid wear but does not cause decay in the teeth.
- Dried fruit is likely to cause more decay than fresh fruit. This is because the drying process degrades the cellular structure of the fruit; making it likely to cause the teeth to rot. Dried fruit also has a tendency to adhere to the teeth, giving it a prolonged oral retention time.
- In dairy products the sugar present is lactose – these sugars do not cause the teeth to rot. Milk also contains factors (calcium phosphate and casein) that protect against degradation of the teeth.
From a dietary point of view, the best advice for reducing decay;
- Reduce the frequency of consumption of sugars-containing food and drinks and to limit their consumption to mealtimes only.
- It is also advisable to avoid sugars-containing food and drinks close to bedtime (within one hour). This is because the saliva flow is reduced during bed times.
- Foods such as cheese and chew sugar-free gum after meals to neutralise the acidogenic effects of dietary sugars should be practiced.
- Sugar free chewing gum prevents against decay.
- Use fluoride toothpastes such as Oral B or Colgate.
As a dentist though, I know I need to be realistic giving advice to the sugarholics -just like every smoker who has tried to quit, I know those who have tried to give up sugar and succumbed to that devil on their shoulder whispering ‘one chocolate bar wouldn’t do me any harm.’ We can not ask individuals to cut out everything.
Indeed we live in an age where sugar is a fuel for many of us. Especially those in high pressured, lucrative careers. Nevertheless, there are a lot of individuals happy to expose the way in which sugar has been prostituted in every way possible. Think of the new found yoga bunnies, fitness gurus and paleo people who are happy to name and shame those sugars that are adversely affecting our daily lives. But they do fail to mention the damaging effects on your teeth.
I could post some photos in my lulu lemon leggings doing a mountain pose on Instagram and try and preach about sugar. Really though, such mediums to preach my mantra may make you feel overwhelmed with worry or stymied by an internal conflict or in need of an energy boost. So
So let’s leave it as it is. Sugar comes in many forms, some good, and some bad. Eat your five a day, chew sugar free chewing gum between meals, more calcium and less faff. The latter is obviously going to attract controversy amongst those anti-dairy, anti-sweetener types, but hey you can’t please everyone. We can all agree though, that without the ‘bad sugars’ we could be lighter, healthier and maintain those pearly whites. Let’s take the advice of the health gurus and dentists
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