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Sugar Habit? How to Curb It and Prevent Tooth Decay Symptoms

Who doesn’t love the rush of sugar from a fizzy drink or a sweet treat? Most people consume a fair amount of sugar every day. The South African Dental Association (SADA) supports the World Health Organization's recommendation that adults should limit their sugar intake to 6 teaspoons and children to 3 teaspoons per day. However, many people exceed this limit. Unfortunately, consuming high quantities of sugar can result in tooth decay symptoms, such as dental caries (commonly known as cavities), gum recession, and tooth sensitivity. The good news is that you don’t have to cut out sugar completely. By just cutting back on the amount of sugar in your diet, you can avoid tooth decay.

How Do Sugars Cause Tooth Decay?

Plaque, a sticky film of germs, constantly forms on the surface of your teeth. When you consume sugary foods or drinks, the germs in plaque will produce acids. These acids will attack your tooth enamel. The stickiness of plaque keeps these acids in close contact with your teeth, ultimately destroying your tooth enamel. This is when cavities can form. If plaque stays on your teeth, it hardens into tartar, which can cause a mild form of gum problems.

Which Sugars Cause Tooth Decay?

When sugars are added to foods to sweeten them, they add calories but don’t add any nutritional value. These are known as added sugars, unlike the naturally occurring sugars that exist in fruits and milk. Foods like sweets, cookies, cakes, and muffins not only offer no nutritional value, the high amount of sugar they contain can adhere to your teeth, resulting in tooth decay. Sugar-containing drinks, including sodas, juice, sweetened coffee, or tea, are also very harmful as they provide a constant sugar bath for your teeth.

You might wonder if all types of added sugars cause tooth decay. For instance, you might be curious if dextrose (a type of sugar that comes from corn) is bad for your teeth. The answer is yes. While the refined sugar found in sweets or sweetened cereals is typically the most harmful, all added sugars can create plaque and cause tooth decay. This is especially the case when they’re consumed in excess.

Tips to Prevent Tooth Decay

Substitute Added Sugars with Natural Sugars. While it might be nice to treat yourself with a dessert now and then, try to reduce the number of times in a day or week that you consume added sugars. Replace them with fruit. Remember that unsweetened cranberries, raspberries, and blackberries have the lowest amount of sugar, while mangoes have the highest.

Check the Food Labels. Don’t forget to check the labels on all food products you buy so that you can avoid foods with high quantities of added sugar. Ingredients are typically listed in order of weight, meaning that a food is probably high in sugar if a type of added sugar is listed as one of the first few ingredients. Such foods should best be avoided.

Have a Good Oral Care Routine. Along with paying attention to your diet, it’s essential to follow a thorough oral care routine to prevent tooth decay naturally. If you don’t brush regularly, plaque builds up on your teeth, increasing your likelihood of experiencing tooth decay. That’s why it’s important to brush your teeth twice a day and clean between your teeth with floss or another type of interdental cleaner.

Sugar can be hard to avoid, but paying close attention to what foods you’re buying and eating can help you steer clear of tooth decay. Avoid added sugars and enjoy some raspberries for dessert, instead. And of course, maintaining good oral hygiene will leave you with a healthy mouth for many years to come.

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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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