The Sweet Truth

Dispelling the sugary tale

The Sweet TruthEveryone’s heard the old adage – eating sugar causes cavities. Well that’s not necessarily true. There have been numerous studies over the years on this topic alone and one specifically showed there was no correlation between kids who eat those sugary breakfast cereals and dental cavities. However that’s not to say go ahead and dig into a bag of chocolate chip cookies every chance you get. Instead, as we celebrate National Nutrition Month®, it’s better to understand the what and how you eat (and drink) will make the difference.

  • Frequency vs. Quantity
    What has come out of studies is that actually frequency is more important than amount when it comes to sugar-filled diets. This is why sugary sodas and energy drinks can cause such damage to teeth. It is the repetitive nature of sipping these beverages over long periods combined with the acidic base that causes demineralization. If you can’t escape such beverages, drink fast or try a straw.
  • Oh Those Carbs
    No matter how infrequently your sugar intake, refined and processed carbohydrate foods – including healthy choice options – can lead to both decay and inflammation. The debris which wreaks havoc is not only found in cookies but whole grains and vegetables, too.
  • One Lump or Two
    Over the years what has come to light in most studies is that added sugars are worse than natural sugars when it comes to dental health. So, how much is too much? If you ask the World Health Organization, they recommend no more than 10% of total calories per day should come from added sugars.
  • Real vs. Artificial
    Whether you choose the yellow Splenda® packet or prefer the blue hue of Equal®, it appears these artificial sweeteners have little to no impact on periodontal disease or cavities. Similarly, sugar alcohols don’t seem to influence oral health and in the case of chewing gum after meals may even decrease cavity risk.

The long of the short of it
Sugar is not at the root of all dental evil. It’s actually plaque – a buildup that occurs with each meal no matter what is on the menu. Whether from candy or carbs, the erosive nature of plaque can lead to the onset of cavities if not brushed or even rinsed away frequently. The best advice is to reduce how often you eat sugary foods and beverages, watch your intake of carbohydrates and limit added sugars.

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