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Sugar And Tooth Decay

2016 08 18
Sugar is widely accepted as a major cause of obesity and health- related problems. It’s also hazardous to dental health, and that’s why it’s important to take sensible precautions.


Why do I need to be careful about sugar?

Sugar is a major cause of tooth decay. It feeds the bacteria that create plaque, attacking the tooth enamel, and forming dental cavities. If they go untreated, these can lead to lost teeth (Source: Oral Health Foundation).

When should I brush my teeth?

It’s widely known that brushing with fluoride toothpaste twice a day is the best way to keep plaque at bay and ensure good dental health. However, despite this, one in four adults fail to meet this simple target (Source: National Smile Month website).

For many, it’s before bedtime that they forget, but this is the most important time, as plaque can build up during the night when the flow of saliva becomes less active.

What’s less widely known is that brushing immediately after eating can be harmful to the teeth, as the enamel can be weakened by acids in food and drink. For this reason, it’s best to wait at least one hour before brushing, after you have eaten (Source: Oral Health Foundation).

What foods contain sugar?

Sugar is contained in foods such as chocolate, cakes, sweets, and soft drinks. Many people also enjoy adding refined sugar (the worst kind) to tea or coffee.

Meanwhile, natural sugar, in the form of fructose, exists in fruit. Despite its good reputation for general health, the acids in fruit can erode your teeth if eaten excessively. Dried fruit should also be eaten in moderation due to it’s high sugar content and ability to stick to teeth. (Source: Oral Health Foundation).

What about ‘hidden’ sugars?

The real surprise for many is ‘hidden’ sugars, which exist in unexpected places. Processed foods, ready meals, and sauces all contain sugar. It also occurs in white bread, white rice and pasta, which may come as a surprise to some. Swapping the latter for wholegrain versions like wholemeal bread, brown rice, etc., can help with reducing your sugar intake.

Fruit juices are another blind spot, containing surprisingly very high levels of sugar which can sometimes surpass even those contained in fizzy soft drinks.

Dental experts suggest diluting them with water, or better still, choosing water or milk as healthy options instead.

Besides a good dental care regime, what other precautions can I take?

Cutting back on your sugar intake will be good for your health in general and your dental health in particular. It’s also best to avoid sugary snacks throughout the day, to reduce the risk of exposing your teeth to sugar over prolonged periods.

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