We all know that too much sugar can damage healthy teeth, but increasing evidence suggests that excessive sugar also plays a role in the development of potentially life-threatening health problems.
The Not-So-Sweet Effects of Sugar
Your oral health and your overall health are directly linked, and consuming too many sugary foods and drinks can impact both. In addition to eroding enamel and contributing to plaque accumulation, sugar can lead to other adverse effects that include:
- Increased risk of periodontal disease
- Recurring sense of hunger, even after eating
- Weight gain
- Elevated risk of high blood pressure and heart disease
- Heightened risk of liver disease
- Increased risk of diabetes
Last year, National Public Radio noted the sugar-fueled phenomenon of “Mountain Dew mouth,” which can affect anyone who drinks too much soda of any brand and does not follow good dental health habits.
Sugar: A Global Problem
Sugar-related health problems have become a global crisis. According to data cited in the Centre for Research on Globalization report “Killing us Sweetly,” between 30 and 40 percent of all healthcare expenditures in the United States are linked to the excess consumption of sugar.
Late last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) reprised its plea to limit added sugars to foods and drinks based on a study into the effects of sugars on oral health. The study found, in part, that limiting sugars to less than 5 percent of one’s caloric intake could minimize the risk of dental caries, or cavities, for life.
Recent studies in the United Kingdom indicate that tooth decay accounts for nearly 10 percent of total health costs and that only a significant reduction in the consumption of sugar will help. This has led British dentists and some public health advocates to call for a cut in sugar and force the food industry to lower the amounts of sugar in many of their products.
Cutting Back on Sugar
You don’t need to cut sugar out of your diet altogether; that’s just not realistic.
But substituting some sugary snacks and beverages with healthier options can make a significant difference in your oral health and your systemic health. In place of a soda, fruit juice or energy drink, have a glass of water or try an enticing flavor of tea or other lightly sweetened drink; replace the occasional cookie or sugary snack with some fruit or nuts.
Most importantly, make sure you adhere to a quality dental hygiene routine. This includes brushing your teeth at least twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste, flossing your teeth at least once daily after brushing, and visiting your dentist for regular checkups.
If you’re seeking a knowledgeable, compassionate dentist in the Austin, Texas area, please contact Dr. Dan Matthews online or call us at 512-452-2273 to schedule your appointment.