20 Mar 2019 Guest Blog: Sugary drinks and their impact on oral health
This World Oral Health Day (Wednesday 20th March), we hear from Northway Dental Practice to highlight how sugary drinks, even diet and zero sugar varieties, can impact on our oral health – an issue that our #GiveUpLovingPop campaign tackles head on.
The amount of sugar the average person consumes daily is possibly the unhealthiest part of the modern diet, and it is detrimental to oral health.
One of the biggest culprits of added or hidden sugar are the sugary drinks that we consume every day.
Sugar is hidden in processed foods under various names, and many people do not even realise just how much sugar they consume in a day.
Because of this, it is important to become familiar with the many synonyms for sugar. Food manufacturers use these to hide the amount of sugar contained in their products, particularly on processed and “low-fat” foods.
Sugary drinks negatively impact oral health. Fruit juices, sodas, sports drinks, and sweetened powdered drinks are all examples of beverages with extremely high sugar content.
Daily Diet with Sugars
When you drink a sugary soda or sports drink, the teeth are directly exposed to the huge amounts of sugar and acid in the beverage, leaving the enamel vulnerable to decay. Even if they don’t taste sweet, many processed foods contain high levels of sugar, including:
- Low-fat Yogurt contains sugars as a flavour enhancer.
- Canned Soups typically contain added sugar disguised as high fructose corn syrup, maltose, dextrose, malt, and other syrups.
- Bottled Smoothies are often sweetened with fruit juices, syrups, and ice cream, which all have high sugar content.
- Canned Fruit is preserved in sickly-sweet syrups.
How Do Sugary Drinks Affect Your Oral Health?
Sugary drinks coat the teeth and mouth in sugar. Bacteria in the mouth feed off sugar and produce an acidic plaque, the sticky film that clings to teeth and eats away at the enamel. This causes tooth decay, cavities, and dental erosion.
Constantly sipping on sugar-filled beverages exposes your teeth to sugar for a longer amount of time. This slow release gives harmful bacteria in the mouth more time to eat away the sugars and produce plaque, leading to tooth decay.
Even though they include no sugar, diet sodas often cause the same amount of dental erosion as regular sodas.
Citric juice exposure has a similar effect on teeth. Orange juice can decrease a tooth enamel’s hardness and subsequently increase the tooth’s roughness.
Sugary drinks are one of the leading causes of cavities.
The acidic plaque that clings to the teeth is the result of bacteria’s consumption of sugar. This plaque eats away at the enamel, the hard outer layer of the tooth that protects the nerve.
As this outer layer becomes thinner and weaker, it also becomes more susceptible to cavities. Continuing to neglect the problem can result in tooth decay and the eventual loss of the affected tooth.
How to Reduce Your Sugar Intake
Daily Intake of Sugar
There is no universal magic number for the amount of sugar you should consume in one day, and your sugar intake will vary according to your overall health needs.
Reducing Sugar in Your Diet
There are several, easy ways to reduce harmful sugars in your diet, such as:
- Avoiding soft drinks and sodas.
- Avoiding fruit juice, which often has the same amount of sugar as soft drinks.
- Limiting your consumption of candy and sugary gum.
- Eliminating canned fruits from your diet.
Using Natural Sugar Substitutes
Many natural sugar substitutes lend the same sweetness as sugar to your coffee or tea but do not have added sugar’s harmful side effects for your oral health.
Stevia sweeteners, derived from the Stevia plant, are a great, all-natural option that comes in powder and tablet forms.
The best form of sugars are the natural ones found in vegetables and fruit. For your oral health, it is best to completely, if slowly, entirely eliminate added sugars from your diet where possible.
Practising good dental health hygiene using fluoride toothpaste, flossing, eating a healthy diet and visiting a dentist can always help keep your gums and teeth healthy.