What Is a Sweet Tooth? How to Deal with Sugar Cravings

You've probably heard someone refer to their "sweet tooth" as their reason for loving sugary treats. But is there really such a thing? While it's not an actual type of tooth, it turns out that your cravings for sugary foods might be more than just your preferences.

Sweets can wreak havoc on your oral health. By understanding why you crave sweets and the negative effects of sugar-laden foods, you might just find the willpower to refuse that second helping of cotton candy.

Sweets and Your Genes

A study published in Twin Research and Human Genetics found that some people simply taste sweets differently. In studying subjects, researchers found that some people didn't perceive foods to be as sweet as others did. Those people, who have what researchers called a "weak sweet taste" could tolerate higher levels of sugary foods, something that could account for your sweet tooth.

Sugary Effects on Your Teeth

The bacteria in your mouth thrive on sugar as a quick energy source. The American Dental Association also explains that once your oral bacteria consume sugar, they produce acid that causes wear and tear on your teeth. When left coated in acid and sugar, your teeth are more susceptible to decay and a wearing away of enamel. This can result in cavities. It's why your dentist probably urges you to stay away from sweets, especially if you are prone to cavities.

Curbing Sweet Tooth Cravings

By taking a few precautions, you can indulge your sweet tooth responsibly. Try these tips to curb cravings and protect your teeth:

  • Brush frequently. Brushing your teeth after eating a sweet treat may help keep your mouth clean and your teeth healthy. Make sure you brush at least twice per day and, if possible, about 30 minutes after eating sugary foods. The Mayo Clinic says if you brush too soon after eating, you may end up removing your enamel that was recently weakened by the acid. When you do brush, try a toothpaste that helps strengthen tooth enamel and replenishes natural calcium, like Colgate Enamel Health Sensitivity Relief.
  • Drink water.Not only will staying hydrated keep your cravings at bay, but drinking water after having a sweet treat helps wash away sugar from your mouth to avoid feeding bacteria. If you can't brush directly after eating, drinking water helps stimulate saliva production and keeps sugar from sticking to your teeth.
  • Skip processed foods.Processed foods might not seem sweet, but sugar can be lurking in the ingredients list. Sauces and condiments, for example, are often sources of hidden sugar, so read the ingredients and make your own whenever possible to cut down your sugar intake.
  • Indulge occasionally.You don't have to cut out all sugar to live a healthy lifestyle. In fact, feeling restricted could lead to binging. Instead, choose one meal a week in which you allow yourself to have a little sweet treat. Knowing that you can have something you love won't make you feel as restricted, and that way, you'll really savor your favorite foods.

Whether you think your love of sweets is genetic or you just happen to love chocolate, you can put a few safeguards in place to ensure that your preference for sugar doesn't negatively affect your oral health. Talk to your dentist about methods to help you make healthy choices and keep your teeth strong.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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Common Conditions During ADULTHOOD

As we get older, dental care for adults is crucial. Here are a few of the conditions to be aware of:

Gum disease – if your home care routine of brushing and flossing has slipped and you have skipped your regular dental cleanings, bacterial plaque and tartar can build up on your teeth. The plaque and tartar, if left untreated, may eventually cause irreparable damage to your jawbone and support structures, and could lead to tooth loss.

Oral cancer – according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, men over the age of 40 have the greatest risk for oral cancer. About approximately 43,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer of the mouth, tongue or throat area, and the ACS estimates that about 7,000 people will die from these cancers. The use of tobacco products and alcohol increases the risk of oral cancer. Most oral cancers are first diagnosed by the dentist during a routine checkup.

Dental fillings break down – fillings have a life expectancy of eight to 10 years. However, they can last 20 years or longer. When the fillings in your mouth start to break down, food and bacteria can get underneath them and can cause decay deep in the tooth.