Dental caries (tooth decay) is a destructive process where the teeth are slowly dissolved by acids produced in the mouth by bacteria.
Dental plaque is a sticky film that coats the teeth and is loaded with millions of bacteria which can use sugar from our diets to produce acids that can dissolve teeth.
Sugar and Dental Health:
Sugar is transformed into acids by the dental plaque which then begins the decay process. Different forms of sugar are equally harmful in producing acids whether they are present naturally or added to foods. Honey, molasses, sucrose, dextrose (corn syrup), fructose and lactose are all forms of harmful sugars.
The Acid Attack
Each time sugar appears in the mouth, an acid attach occurs for at least 20 minutes. The amount (quantity) of sugar eaten is not a critical factor. Of more importance are how often sugar is eaten and how long the sugar remains in the mouth, since the acid attack will continue for at least 20 minutes after the sugar is removed from the mouth.
Diet and Dental Health
A well balanced diet that promotes good general health will also promote good oral health and is necessary for the development of strong, healthy teeth during the formative years (Birth to 12-13 years of age). Well balanced nutritious meals will reduce the chances of tooth decay.
1. Snacks eaten between meals should be nutritious foods, with little or no sugar.
2. It is important to reduce the frequency of sugar-food intake and avoid sugar-foods that remain in the mouth for long periods of time. (Lifesavers, sticky foods, etc.)
3. Sugar snacks, desserts, etc. should be eaten at mealtime when an acid attack is already occurring, thus reducing the frequency of between meal acid attacks.
4. Be aware of “Hidden Sugars” and be cautious of some “Health” foods. Many have a high sugar content in the form of “Natural” sugars such as honey, molasses, etc.
5. It is a wise dietary practice to read labels.
Dietary habits, likes and dislikes, are formed in infancy. The “sweetening” of baby food is unnecessary and will only serve to promote the development of a preference for sweet foods (sweet tooth). Sugar snacks and the like when introduced in infancy help to form a poor dietary habits which may promote dental disease as the child grows older.