Most of us know that a diet high in sugar causes cavities. A diet high in simple carbohydrates like sugar is also linked to gum disease. What you might not know, is that processed, manufactured foods often contain huge amounts of added sugar and simple carbohydrates, which are often missed on the ingredient label.
Up to 90% of school age children have at least one cavity, and up to 50% of American adults have some form of gum disease. In a National Center for Biotechnology Information abstract, the prevalence of cavities in children's primary teeth is on the rise. A major contributor to these serious dental problems is a high sugar, high carbohydrate diet.
The Problem With Sugar
Sugar is sneaky, and it has made it's way into more foods than you can imagine, and in amounts that far exceed the Recommended Daily Amount (RDA) for a healthy diet. Just one bowl of cereal can have up to 150% of the RDA of sugar.
Too much sugar contributes to bacteria in the mouth, which leads to tooth decay. In addition, a diet high in sugar overstimulates the body's production of dopamine ( a naturally occurring "feel-good" chemical produced by the body). Overproduction of dopamine leads to overeating and cravings.
Many nutritional experts warn that refined sugars, processed white flour, vegetable oils and other artificial ingredients lead to numerous illnesses, including gum disease, tooth decay, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.
Finding Hidden Sugars in Processed Foods
Reading the label on foods is a good place to start, but know what to look for when deciphering how much sugar is in a product. Sugar appears in foods under over 57 different names. Some of the most common names are anhydrous dextrose, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, lactose and sucrose.
High amounts of simple carbohydrates are quickly broken down into glucose during digestion, leading to dramatic fluctuations in blood sugar. Simple carbohydrates are found in fruits, milk, and milk products and white flour among others.
Adopt a Diet Rich in Whole Foods for Dental Health (And Overall Health)
A healthy diet consists primarily of lean proteins, fresh vegetables and a healthy dose of fruit. Probiotics, such as those found in active culture yogurt, have also been shown to inhibit gum disease.
Avoid processed and packaged food as much as possible, and focus on eating fresh, whole foods. Whole grains are a good source of complex carbohydrates, which break down into glucose much slower during digestion.
Some of the best foods for dental health are also an important part of a healthy diet. First and foremost, drink a lot of water. Water, especially fluoridated water, helps wash away food particles and helps strengthen teeth. Cheese has been shown to help inhibit tooth decay and contain calcium and protein which are important to dental health. Yogurt and other probiotics help to reduce the levels of harmful bacteria which can cause cavities. Crunchy vegetables such as carrots and celery help clean your teeth, so eat them at the end of a meal. Nuts such as almonds are low in sugar but high in calcium and protein. Lean proteins such as chicken are also good for dental health because protein has been shown to help protect tooth enamel.
See Your Dentist Regularly For Cavity Prevention
Combined with a healthy diet and good personal oral hygiene, regular dental check-ups will help you prevent cavities and gum disease. Early detection of dental problems and early intervention will help you keep your teeth healthy and strong. Has it been a while since you've seen your dentist? Schedule a check-up and cleaning today.
Reference: NCBI "The Contribution of Dietary Factors to Dental Caries and Disparities in Caries" Connie Mobley, Ph.D., R.D., Teresa A. Marshall, Ph.D., R.D., Peter Milgrom, DDS Professor and Director, and Susan E. Coldwell, PhD, Associate Professor