Dentist’s Insight- DIET: Is sugar the enemy?

“But I don’t eat any sugar” combined with a puzzled expression is something I experience frequently when examining dental patients who have decay.

Ask yourself if you have a high sugar diet and you probably think you are an normal sugar consumer. The problem with our modern high paced, fast food life style, is that we are not always aware of how much sugar is in the items we buy. Tooth decay unfortunately comes hand in hand with our modern lives and sugars are becoming increasingly harder to avoid. Sugar, mainly Sucrose, Glucose, maltose and fructose feed the bacteria on your teeth and caused plaque, which in turn causes a surge of acid in your mouth which leads to decay over a period of time.

What is decay?

Decay is a breakdown in the structure of the tooth. Enamel is very hard and decay in this can be reversible as it can remineralise if conditions improve. Once into the dentine (the inner part of the tooth), however, the tooth is damaged for good. Decay is not always painful, but if it is left for a long time then eventually it will reach the nerve of the tooth which can be very painful. Decay is so common in modern life that even dentists get it (myself included) and its early detection and treatment can save you expensive procedures later down the line.

So how can I change my diet?

Every time you consume sugar (no matter how small an amount) this bacterial acid will be released in your mouth. Guidelines recommend that people should keep sugars to meal times, which is about 3-4 times a day max, and try to eat sugar free snacks and drinks in between. It is healthy for your whole body to also try and cut down on the amount of sugar you have, and things like fruit juice, energy drinks and soft drinks are not recommended for everyday consumption as they are very high in acid and sugar content.

Take home points:

  • Keep sugars to mealtimes, cut down on overall intake of sugar
  • Find sugar free snacks, and drink more water less juices
  • Brush and floss properly in the first place to reduce plaque
  • Chew sugar free chewing gum after meals
  • Keep your dental check-ups regular. Early decay can be spotted and monitored so you can avoid big painful holes in your teeth.
  • Fluoride- use a toothpaste with 1450ppm and don’t rinse it off after use
  • Make a food diary on your smart phone and count how many times a day you are eating

Here is more information about diet and your oral health:

Click here for British Dental Health Foundation- Diet Advice

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