Oh sugar! The facts we don’t want to hear
Dental Health Week is fast approaching and the theme this year is sugar and its effect on teeth. Did you know the average Australian consumes over twice the daily recommended sugar intake? How much sugar do you consume on a daily basis? Are you taking the time to read your food labels?
Let’s talk about it!
When it comes to our teeth and gums, our oral hygiene is only one aspect of maintaining a healthy smile. Our diet plays a huge role in our risk of developing tooth decay, gum disease and other health conditions. That’s not to say we shouldn’t ever eat sugar, but balance and moderation is key!
Where possible, try to eliminate foods that are both acidic and sugary. A good example is sports/energy/soft drinks, or sour lollies. The acid weakens and erodes the enamel surface, the sugar then coats the weakened surface, and after a short period of time, the bacteria in our mouths eat the sugar on our teeth, metabolise it and release it as waste. This waste product is highly acidic and breaks down the tooth structure, essentially creating decay.
Instead, when choosing treats to have on occasion, enjoy something that melts, like ice cream, chocolate, ice blocks so that they don’t stick to your teeth and prolong the time that your teeth are at risk, and of course, ideally brushing and flossing afterwards.
Are you aware of all the different types of sugar you have in your diet? Often it is easy to think of white granulated sugar is the ‘main culprit’ in contributing to dental decay, but there are hundreds of types of hidden sugars that are in our food. Some examples include maltodextrin, sucrose, fructose and glucose.
Learn to understand your food labels to help identify the amount of sugar you are consuming, pay close attention to how many grams of sugar are per serving, and try to calculate that with the recommended intake. The recommended dietary limit of sugar for a healthy adult is about 6 teaspoons/24grams daily, yet the average Australian is consuming 14 teaspoons of sugar daily!
Remember – for every 4grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon of sugar
Advertisements claiming their product has “no added sugar” does not mean there is no sugar in the product, it simply means they have not added extra sugar, and is not necessarily a healthier option and can still contribute to tooth decay.
Take juice, for example, think about how many oranges you have to juice to make 1 cup. Would you necessarily eat that many oranges? Eating fruits not only gives us the vitamins and minerals we need, but it also adds much-needed fibre to our diets. Most fruit juice also has several added sweeteners and preservatives that are unnecessary. In summary, chew your food, don’t drink it!
Always maintain brushing and flossing regularly, pair this with a balanced diet and seeing a dental professional every 6-months, and you’ll be on your way to a healthier smile!
Oral Health Therapist
1300SMILES Cairns Central