SUGAR IS THE BIGGEST enemy when it comes to maintaining a healthy smile. Why? Because the sugar molecules combine with saliva and harmful bacteria in our mouths. This causes plaque. Plaque can dissolve tooth enamel, tooth decay, and gum disease. We always encourage our patients to cut back on sugar intake…but it is not always as easy as it sounds.
Sugar Goes by Many Names
Sugar does not only come in the form of candy, soda, and desserts. It is in fruit juice, flavored yogurt, granola bars, and barbecue sauce? Many of the foods we eat contain a significant amount of added sugar. It is always a good idea to check the “added sugars” line in the nutritional facts as sugar is not always clearly labeled as “sugar.” Learning to recognize the different names for sugar will help in identifying which foods contain sugar.
How to Find Sugar on Food Labels
Obviously, watch out for the word “sugar.” Another giveaway is the word “syrup.” Every syrup, from high-fructose corn syrup to rice syrup, is a type of sugar-based sweetener. That is not all; evaporated cane juice, agave nectar, honey, fruit juice concentrate, and even 100% fruit juice are also sugar.
Then there are the more scientific names. Do not be fooled by the long, difficult-to-pronounce chemistry words. An easy way to identify these sugar aliases is to look for the suffix “-ose” at the end of the words, such as in fructose, dextrose, glucose, sucrose, lactose, and maltose. These are all names for types of sugar molecules.
Is there a healthy Amount of Sugar?
Ideally, we would all be able to avoid sugar entirely, but with it hiding in so many of the foods we buy, that can be an exceedingly difficult goal to achieve. If it is not possible to cut sugar out altogether, then we recommend following the American Heart Association’s guidelines. Women should try to consume no more than 25 grams (or six teaspoons) of sugar per day, and men should try to keep it under 36 grams (nine teaspoons).
It is also important to control when and how we consume our sugar. Whole fruit is a healthier option than fruit juice because the sugar in the fruit is trapped with water and fiber, making it harder for our bodies to absorb it. Whole fruit is also more filling than juice, so we are less likely to overdo it. (If you have ever wondered what the difference is between natural and processed sugars, that’s it.) Finally, our teeth should consume our sugar only during meals.
Sweeteners for a Healthier Mouth and Body
When that sweet tooth kicks in, there are plenty of sugar-free sweeteners to try, such as monk fruit sweetener, stevia, xylitol, and erythritol. Working with these substitutes can be tricky when baking, but many recipes work well with applesauce, mashed bananas, dates, or figs in place of sugar.
The Dentist Is Your Teeth’s Best Ally Against Sugar
Limiting sugar intake and finding healthier substitutes are great ways to promote oral health, in addition to a good daily brushing and flossing routine, but the dentist can help too! If it has been longer than six months since your last dental appointment, make sure to schedule one!
We have the sweetest patients!
Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.