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Sugar And Its Effects on Your Oral Health

When it comes to keeping your family’s teeth healthy, it’s important to ensure they brush and floss, but it’s just as important to be mindful of what they put in their mouth. There is a long list of foods and drinks that are bad for your teeth. In fact, they can actually hinder or reverse any good your dental routine is doing.

Sugar-based drinks, such as fruit juices and soft drinks, are definitely on this list. Although they are the go-to beverage for children everywhere, they are not the best choice. Drinking too much can cause a host of dental problems, including gum disease, tooth decay, dental cavities and even bad breath.

Sugar has a direct impact on the health of your teeth and mouth in general. While the amount, type and form of the sugars can change the severity of the impact, generally speaking all sugars cause the same effect. When sugars intermingle with your saliva and begin to get processed by the gnashing of your teeth, the pH levels in your mouth and saliva are affected. You may not think of your saliva as acidic but it actually is. The level of acidity in your mouth helps control the bacterial environment in your mouth; if the pH levels decrease then the environment becomes more hospitable and promotes bacteria growth. If your acidity levels were to rise too much, it could cause damage to your teeth and other tissues.

Researchers from University College London and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine looked at public health records from around the world and found that in the U.S. especially, tooth decay–which is one of the most common non-infectious diseases in the world–from sugar, was far too high.

About 60 to 90% of school-age children and 92% of adults in the U.S. have experienced tooth decay.

“Only 2% of people at all ages living in Nigeria had tooth decay when their diet contained almost no sugar, around 2g per day. This is in stark contrast to the USA, where 92% of adults have experienced tooth decay,” study author Aubrey Sheiham, emeritus professor of Dental Public Health at University College London, said.

The average 1- to 3-year-old consumes about 12 teaspoons of sugar each day, and the average 4- to 8-year-old takes in 21 teaspoons, according to the American Heart Association. And the numbers don’t get better for tweens and teens — kids between the ages of 9 and 19. Boys in this age group average between 29 and 34 grams of sugar a day, and girls in the same age group average between 23 and 25 grams, according to the journal “Circulation.” These numbers significantly exceed the recommended sugar limits for children.

The actual limit of sugar for children is 3 to 4 teaspoons during the preschool and early elementary years, and between 5 and 8 teaspoons during the tween and teen years.

The forms of sugars you ingest are also a significant factor in your overall oral health.  A sugar that you drink and a sugar that you chew are both bad for your teeth but for different reasons. Sugars that come in liquid forms, such as sodas or juices, wash over your entire mouth and get into every nook and cranny of your teeth. This is harmful because, even with regular brushing, those sugars can sit in hard to reach places and allow bacteria to grow.

Sugars that you chew are harmful because they can leave a larger than normal amount of residue on the teeth. This residue will not wash away with saliva; again, it creates a more than normal amount of substrate for bacteria. Even natural sugars can be harmful for your teeth but naturally occurring sugars aren’t as concentrated as artificial ones and they are generally ingested alongside other foods which are low in sugar. An example of this would be eating an apple. It’s not purely sugar and the apple itself is neither sticky nor a liquid.  While residue will be left behind after consuming the apple, it will be much less so than with artificially created sugar products.

Sugar consumption causes issues like severe erosion that go far beyond cavities. It can lead to:

  • extreme changes in your bite (the way your upper and lower teeth come together)
  • a significant reduction in the size of your back teeth
  • tooth loss and/or extraction of unhealthy teeth
  • the replacement of dental work
  • gum surgery
  • dental implants

If sugar consumption has caused you tooth decay, tooth loss or other oral health issues, don’t wait, call our office today at (562) 434-6414 to schedule an appointment!

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