The Price You Pay For Having A Sweet Tooth

The Price You Pay For Having A Sweet Tooth

Sugar has long been the enemy of a healthy mouth but how aware are our Ipswich patients of the quantity they consume?

It is well known that eating too much sugar is harmful to the teeth. This has been the mantra of parents for a very long time. Despite this, we seem to be addicted to the taste of sugary foods, and the more we become so, the more sugar is required to fulfil our cravings. Indeed, some studies have indicated that sugar is as addictive as some addictive drugs such as cocaine (1). With this in mind, we will take a look in this blog at how sugar affects our oral health and also how to be more aware of how much we consume on a daily basis.

How harmful is sugar to our teeth?

The most common problem caused by sugar that we see at the Foxhall Dental Practice is tooth decay. This is because sugar acts as a food source for bacteria that live in the mouth. As they process the sugar, this turns into acid and it is this that then attacks the protective enamel of our teeth and leads to the formation of cavities. Although teeth affected in this way can often be restored with a small filling if caught early enough, if allowed to progress, it can lead to more significant treatment such as a root canal procedure or even extraction of the tooth. The same acidity can also lead to thinning or erosion of the enamel which can cause teeth to become painfully sensitive.

It isn’t just our teeth either. Too much sugar can contribute to the formation of plaque in our mouths. This is a thin film of saliva and bacteria that attaches itself to the teeth and gum line. While some of this is eliminated when we brush our teeth, it will still eventually lead to a harder form of this, called tartar or calculus, which becomes impossible to remove without the intervention of a scale and polish treatment which is carried out by the dental hygienist. Without this, gum disease is likely to occur which can lead to not only painful and bleeding gums but also deterioration of the supportive bone in the jaw, and our teeth can become loose and wobbly, or even fall out if not treated in time.

So how much sugar do we really consume?

Many of us are aware of our sugar consumption, or think that we are, whether this be due to concern about our teeth or perhaps equally often, our waistline. We may well make an effort to cut down on cakes and chocolate bars and perhaps even cut down or eliminate sugar in our tea or coffee and this is certainly a positive thing to do. In today’s society though, most of us probably consume far more sugar than we think. These are sometimes referred to as ‘hidden sugar’.

So, where might we find these hidden sugars? If we take away the obvious places like sweets etc, we are left with trying to find out what foods contain sugar and the unfortunate reality is that a lot of them do. Sugar is used as a flavour enhancer and a preservative in many processed foods. From simple cans of peas to even high end ready meals, sugar is likely to be one of the ingredients used. On their own, this wouldn’t necessarily be a major issue but it still contributes to the total amount consumed.

‘Treats’ are another area that we need to watch out for. Many of us like to pop into a coffee shop from time to time, and especially on a cold grey day, we may decide to treat ourselves to one of the speciality coffees on offer. These often contain ‘extras’ such as syrups, cream, marshmallows etc, all of which contain sugar. In fact these, plus the sugar generally added can really add up and one chain has a ‘speciality drink’ which contains the equivalent of 16 teaspoons of sugar! Even if you have a sweet tooth, that is an extremely high amount of sugar that you are consuming.

Even those of us who are very careful and consider that we eat healthily will still consume more sugar than we think. Even if we eliminate processed foods from our diet and don’t drink fizzy soft drinks, we will still consume sugar in the form of fructose and lactose etc, natural forms of sugar that are found in milk, fruit and even some vegetables. Although these products offer other health benefits, it is useful to be aware that even this natural sugar can cause dental problems so you still need to make sure to brush and floss your teeth well and attend our Ipswich dentists for regular check ups.

And the cost?

We all want to have nice healthy teeth and not suffer from toothache and decay, but it is worth reminding patients that, in addition to this, any treatment required will also affect your pocket. Each time you need treatment, from a small filling to a dental implant, that is a little less money you will have to spend on other things. In the case of a complex treatment, it could mean the difference between having a holiday or not. Although protecting your teeth and gums (and waistline) is probably the most important reason for reducing your sugar intake, it is worth remembering that it will hit your pocket too.

If you are having problems with your teeth or haven’t seen a dentist for some time, why not contact us to see one of our friendly dental team for a consultation. You can do this by calling the Foxhall Dental Practice today on  01473 258396.

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