Many people do not fully appreciate the importance of diet in maintaining a healthy smile. There are many foods and drinks that are harmful to dental health. Most of us are aware of how bad sugars are for our teeth. However, most people do not know that carbohydrates are just sugars in disguise? Simple carbohydrates are easily broken down by oral bacteria leading to an increased risk of tooth decay and poor oral health.
Which Sugars Cause Tooth Decay?
Glucose is the body’s main source of energy. All other sugars are broken down by the body into glucose. Glucose is also broken down by oral bacteria and will increase the occurrence of tooth decay.
Sucrose, also known as common table sugar (also sometimes called saccharose), is usually the main ingredient in candy, is the sweetest of all the sugars, and is broken down by Streptococcus Mutans (S. Mutans). Streptococcus Mutans has the unique ability to change sucrose into dextran. Dextran is a sticky substance that gives bacteria the ability to stick to teeth. It also acts as a food source for oral bacteria when present. Dextran makes dental plaque much more difficult to remove from teeth. Sucrose is naturally found in sugar cane, maple trees, and sugar beets.
Fructose is commonly found in nature in many fruits (berries, melons) and root vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes). Fructose is not as sweet as sucrose. Fructose causes oral health problem when it is concentrated as high fructose corn syrup. Fructose corn syrup is far sweeter than sucrose, stickier, and easily broken down by bacteria to cause tooth decay. High fructose syrup is routinely used because it is cheap and in liquid form.
Lactose (milk sugar) is found in many dairy products (milk, yogurt, and cheeses). A rare characteristic of this sugar is that is not sweet to the taste but it can still be broken down by oral bacteria, producing acid that leads to decay. Infants who gal asleep with a bottle may develop tooth decay and oral thrush from milk pooling in the mouth
Maltose is commonly found in bread, rice, cereals, and beer. Beer is a double threat as it contains both sugar and is acidic in nature. The combination of sugar and acid is detrimental to our teeth. Maltose, like lactose, does not taste sweet.
Can Sugars Be Avoided?
This is an almost impossible task for many in today's modern world. Sugars come in many forms and are in a large array of foods. The key is to monitor the amount of sugar intake, use moderation, and follow proper dental hygiene techniques. It is important to note that sucrose, has little nutritional benefit. Sucrose (white table sugar) should be ingested in moderation. Lactose, natural fructose, and maltose are found in products important to a good healthy diet so they will be necessary if we wish to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Tips for Preventing Tooth Decay from Sugar
It is not possible or necessary to completely avoid sugar in our diet. Therefore, it is important to maintain good dental hygiene. This is even more important for children who tend to eat more candy and sugary items than adults. As always visit your dentist for regular dental examinations and professional cleanings to maintain good oral health
About the Author
Dr. Marielaina Perrone is a cosmetic dentist. Her advanced professional training and extensive dentistry experience translate into greater confidence and convenience for your entire family. Learn more at Henderson Cosmetic Dentist.
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