Hidden Sugars Increase Risk of Tooth Decay and Gum Disease

Published:May 30th, 2012

© George Georgiades

Most people are becoming more health conscious about what they eat and drink, but may be unaware of the risk posed by hidden sugars in their diet. These hidden sugars not only increased the risk of piling on the pounds, but also from suffering from tooth decay and gum disease. Plaque bacteria love to feed off sugary foods, and produce acid as a byproduct of feeding. It’s the acid which attacks teeth and gums.

A lot of supposedly healthy foods contain high amounts of sugar, and according to the British Dental Health Foundation, one of the worst meals of the day can be breakfast. UK consumer organisation Which?, tested 50 different breakfast cereals, and found 32 had a high sugar content, and most of these very popular brands designed to appeal to children. It’s not just cereal that contains hidden sugars, as many low-fat and fat-free products typically brought by those watching their weight or the health-conscious, can have high amounts of sugar.

Energy drinks that are marketed as being ideal to drink after a session at the gym or during sports can also have a very high sugar content. Non-diet fizzy drinks can contain as much as 12 spoonfuls of sugar, while energy drinks can contain 13 spoonfuls of sugar. Those bottles of flavoured vitamin waters which look so healthy can contain up to 11 spoonfuls of sugar.

So what is the best way to eat healthily and cut down on these hidden sugars?

It’s always worth reading food labels, and looking out for unsweetened versions of foods such as muesli. You may need to experiment until you find a brand you really like, and if you find the unsweetened versions not so tasty then try keeping the sweeter foods for an occasional treat.

Over time you’ll probably find your taste buds adjust to preferring less sugar. If you do want to eat or drink something sugary than it’s always best to do it as quickly as possible, as sipping a sweet drink over the course of a couple of hours can cause more damage because the plaque bacteria will be continually feeding of the sugar and producing acid.

If you have a lot of sugary, fizzy, non-diet drinks then one solution can be to switch to diet versions, but these can be high in acid and can be just as bad for your teeth. It is much better to drink plain water, or to use a drinking straw to minimise the contact of the liquid with your teeth and gums.

The risk of eating and drinking sugary foods

It is estimated around 80% of people will suffer from some degree of gum disease at some point during their lives, and although it can affect anyone at any age it’s much more prevalent in people aged over 35. It’s a very serious condition, and is the main cause of tooth loss in the world.

The initial symptoms are easy to miss or ignore, but the trouble is that if you leave gum disease untreated the condition can become chronic, and the treatment is much more painful, unpleasant and costly. This is one of the reasons why it’s so important to visit the dentist regularly, as they will be able to spot any early signs of disease and decay so it can be treated early on with minimal cost and discomfort.

About the author

Alison, is a UK born and educated dental professional with over 25 years experience.

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