Fact! Sugar is bad for our teeth. Of course, this comes as no surprise yet sugar-related dental problems are still the most widespread cause of poor oral health and disease. The message is clear and simple though, reducing the amount of sugar which is in our diets will help to reduce the damage it can cause to our teeth, with the added bonus of improving our waistlines along the way.
But even here at the Oral Health Foundation offices we are sometimes guilty of straying from our own advice and over indulging on sugar. That is why it is important to be smart on sugar so that it does not catch us out.
With sugar-related dental problems being one of the most common complaints when visiting the dentist, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, CEO at the Oral Health Foundation, share his top tips to help with our ever-growing addiction to sugar:
1.Sugar by any other name is still sugar
When we think of sugar we probably picture the white stuff you pop in our tea. But there are many ‘hidden’ sugars in lots of things we would not even think of. Sugar can go by many names and recognising them is the first step to avoiding them. There are too many to list but some to look out for are; sucrose, glucose, fructose, maltose, molasses, hydrolysed starch and corn syrup.
2.Have a smarter breakfast
A certain celebrity chef recently brought attention to the dangerously high levels of sugar in some breakfast cereals, with some shockingly made up of almost a third of sugar. Switching out for a lower sugar cereal or one with no added sugar, and not adding any yourselves, will have a massive impact on your dental health and your health overall. Filling up at breakfast time is also a great way to avoid those unhealthy snacks throughout the day.
It’s 10:30 and we get that urge. It’s a little too far away from lunch and we need something to tide us over. Don’t reach for the biscuit barrel, a handful of nuts will provide that energy boost you need. Remember it’s not only about how much sugar we eat when it comes to your teeth it’s also about how often, so try opting for a sugar free alternative whenever possible.
4.Fat free is not trouble free
Many products are marketed as a ‘healthy alternative’, but those claims on the packaging are only telling part of the story. Often products such as fat free yogurts still contain high levels of sugars in the form of fructose or refined sugar. A good tip is to look out for the traffic light system when we’re doing our shopping.
5.Work out some ground rules
Let’s be honest, we don’t need a sweet dessert every day! By setting a set of simple ground rules we can make some simple lifestyle changes which can have a huge effect. Simple things like, not eating in the hour before you go to bed, avoiding adding sugar to anything and making sure we avoid dessert a few times a week soon adds up.
When it comes to our teeth fresh whole foods are best, this all comes down to stickiness. By smashing up a banana and strawberry into a smoothie it releases the sugars which then are able to coat the whole tooth, even in the tiny gaps, eating them whole helps to avoid this problem. And when it comes to stickiness dried fruit is a big no-no, this stuff can get right in those gaps giving the sugar a huge amount of time to cause problems.
7.Set a quota
When it comes to our teeth it’s not only about how much sugar you eat it’s how often you have it. It takes an hour for our mouth to return to a neutral state after eating or drinking and every time we have another mouthful that time starts again. Constant grazing can leave us with a toothless grin so if we do need a sugar fix, keep it to mealtimes and give our mouth a break.
8.Hit the hay early
Being a night owl can spell bed news for our mouth and this is all down to routine. People who stay up late are more likely to skip brushing before bed and with the added midnight snacking this could spell disaster for our teeth. We can’t snack when were asleep so getting an early night can have a wonderful effect. This comes with the added problem that is……
9.The most important meal of the day
How many of us have skipped breakfast and then yearn for that sugary fix to get us through the day? This comes down again to giving our mouths a break to recover, have a filling and nutritious breakfast is the best way to start your day of right.
10.Drinking like a fish
Alcoholic drinks account for 11% of the UK population’s daily intake of added sugar. Whether it’s that pint of cider, glass of prosecco or even a cheeky G&T the sugar in them can have a huge impact on our oral health. Try to moderate the amount of alcoholic drinks you have and also have some water nearby to help wash down your tipple of choice. It helps wash some of the sugar from the mouth and our head will thankyou the next day too.
11.Keep an eye on your coffee order
Our double chocolaty chip crème frappuccino or tiramisu latte with extra whipped cream from our favourite coffee place may be delicious, and fun to say, but let’s be honest we know its laden with sugar. If we do need a caffeine fix and have a sweet tooth try to keep it to meal times, or we could just stick with an Americano or espresso.