I write quite often about the various negatives of consuming too much sugar. The control it can have over you, the dangerous role it can have in dealing with your feelings and of course all the physical dangers that are associated with overconsumption (metabolic diseases, poor sleep, bad skin etc.).
One area I’ve not highlighted as much is the damage to your teeth; which is strange because trust me, I have suffered when it comes to my teeth thanks to my former love of all things sweet. It seems this is the one way sugar can continue to haunt you even after you’ve largely stopped eating it.
Last time I was at the dentist I told her about my blog and business Happy Sugar Habits. I told her I help people eat less sugar and change their lifelong habits; and that I hardly eat ANY SUGAR now in comparison to what I used to. I was going for angel status. This was all in the desperate hope that somehow good karma was going to make her tell me I didn’t need anymore fillings (which didn’t work because I did – it turned out an old one needed replacing, damn).
Thanks to sugar, I have fillings, lots of them. I’ve had a root canal (I actually had to come home from travelling at 19 to have that one done) and now I’ve got one tooth that still needs something big and ugly doing to it this autumn (which I’m dreading).
I’ve wept in dentists chairs, spent a small fortune, been numb from injections countless times and am likely to be ever anxious when I have to have routine check ups. Yet for years I kept eating too much stick to the teeth style sugar, prioritising low fat and low calories over everything else. Why, I ask my younger self, WHY?!
This week, I’m pleased to introduce James Goolnik, one of the UK’s leading dental experts who has kindly written some hints and tips around sugar to help you minimise the damage and avoid unnecessary dentist drama. I hope it helps you avoid future costs and pain!
What sugar does to your teeth (by James Goolnik)
What did you last put into your mouth? Not many of us stop and think of the possible effects foods and drinks have on our teeth. The enamel of your teeth is the hardest substance in your body but it can easily be worn away by drinks and foods. You only get one set of adult teeth and with some common sense, you can ensure they last your lifetime.
Everyone has bacteria in the mouth and some of these live off the sugary foods you give them, producing acid as a by product. It’s this acid that burns tiny holes in your teeth leading to cavities (tooth decay). It takes a healthy mouth about 30 minutes to neutralise this acid and during this time they’re having a party in your mouth. These bacteria love to be fed regularly, so if you sip a sugary drink or snack on sweets, the saliva in your mouth does not get a chance to neutralise this acid. It’s effectively the same thing as dipping your teeth in acid; they slowly dissolve.
With sugary or acidic snacks and drinks, it’s the frequency that’s the most important – strangely eating more over a short period is much better for your teeth than regular grazing or drinking. This isn’t an excuse to eat more, but it’s something to consider.
Acidic drinks are also a problem. The acid in these does not even need the bacteria and can cause direct ‘erosion’ of your teeth. Any carbonated drinks are a problem, even fizzy water. They can lead to your teeth getting transparent and becoming sensitive. To minimise the damage, drink them through a straw or have them with food.
How can I prevent tooth decay from sugar?
You need to become more aware of when and where you’re eating sugar, making an effort to reduce the amount and frequency you consume it (Laura’s Mentor Me Off Sugar programme is of course a way to do this!). Eating food and drink high in carbohydrates, particularly snacking between meals, will increase your risk of tooth decay. If you eat or drink something containing sugar, you can neutralise this acid by:
- Having some sugar-free chewing gum
- Using a fluoride mouthwash
- Having a rinse out with water
- Finishing on a savoury snack to neutralise the acid
If you want to brush your teeth, wait at least 30 minutes so you are not brushing in this acid.
James is the principal dentist at the award winning Bow Lane Dental Group in London. You can download a FREE copy of the oral survival guide to make sure your teeth last a lifetime here. James recommends you see your dentist for an oral health assessment and work with them to help minimise the damage sugar can do.
A final note from me…
Reading James’s article, I recognise something that I used to do that probably didn’t help me. I used to eat a small portion of something sweet then I’d be ‘good’ and stop. However I wanted more and so 30 mins later I’d go back for a little bit more (that’s what sugar does doesn’t it!?). Maybe 2 hours later and I’d just have another few raisins or one more of those chocolates. This is the constant mental battle I often refer to around sugar, but as highlighted it’s also a killer in terms of sugar attacks on your teeth. Can anyone relate to this? Do you pop back for just a bit more? Do you swear everytime you go to the dentist that you’re going to eat less sugar?! Comment below and we can share war stories!