Sugar, Its Many Aliases, and Your Teeth

WHAT COMES TO MIND when you hear the word “sugar”? Probably your favorite type of candy or dessert, maybe your favorite soda. You probably didn’t picture barbecue sauce, granola bars, flavored yogurt, or fruit juice, but all of these and plenty more foods you wouldn’t suspect are loaded with sugar. That isn’t great news for our oral health.

Sugar Versus Our Teeth

Why are dental health professionals like us wary of sugar? Simple. The harmful bacteria on our teeth and gums like to eat sugar as much as we do. When they’ve enjoyed a tasty meal from the food fragments that remain in your mouth after a sweet treat, they excrete acid onto your teeth. This acid eats away at tooth enamel and irritates the gums, and if we aren’t careful, it can lead to issues like tooth decay and gum disease.

Learn to Recognize the Many Names of Sugar

If sugar is showing up in foods we don’t think of as sweet, how are we supposed to know? One trick is to check the “added sugars” line on food labels, but you can also identify it in the ingredients list, where it hides behind many different aliases.

The Obvious and the Sneaky

Anywhere the word “sugar” appears, from brown sugar to coconut sugar, from coarse to powdered — it’s all sugar. The word “syrup” is another giveaway. No matter what type of syrup it is, whether high fructose corn syrup or rice syrup, it’s still sugar.

The Deceptive and the Scientific

Some of sugar’s disguises are presented to you in a way to fool you into thinking they’re healthy. These include agave nectar, honey, fruit juice concentrate, evaporated cane juice, and 100 percent fruit juice. Sugar will also hide behind intimidating, highly scientific-sounding labels, but a good way to identify them is by the suffix “-ose.” Fructose, sucrose, dextrose, lactose, maltose, and glucose are all scientific names for types of sugar molecules.

How Much Sugar Is Too Much?

With added sugars hiding in so many of the things we eat, cutting down on sugar can be a tricky business, but it’s definitely worth it both for our oral health and our overall health. The recommendation from the American Heart Association is that women consume no more than 25 grams (6 teaspoons) per day, and men 36 grams (9 teaspoons).

Healthy Sugar Alternatives

The way we eat our sugar is almost as important as how much we eat. Whole fruit is much better for us than fruit juice, and that’s because the sugar in fruit is trapped with a lot of water and fiber, so our bodies have a harder time absorbing it. Whole fruit is also more filling, so it’s harder to overdo it than it is drinking OJ with breakfast. This is the difference between natural sugars and processed sugar.

If fruit isn’t enough to satisfy your sweet tooth, you can try sugar-free sweeteners like xylitol, Stevia, monk fruit sweetener, and erythritol come in handy. It gets trickier if you want to bake sugar-free, but you can reduce the sugar in your recipes by substituting some or all of the sugar for applesauce, mashed banana, dates, or figs. And a good way to avoid added sugars is by eating more whole foods.

How Long Has It Been Since We Last Saw Your Teeth?

Cutting down on sugar is one way we can help out our teeth and gums, but it’s not the only way! A great brushing and flossing regimen and regular dental cleanings are key to maintaining good oral health. If we haven’t seen you in more than six months, today’s a great day to schedule your next appointment!

Our patients are the sweetest!

You Might Also Enjoy...

Dental Insurance: Use it Before You Lose It

Each year, your dental insurance benefits “expire” and reset to the next calendar year. For most insurance plans, that’s December 31st/January 1st. For some carriers, the date is a different time in the year, but most are January to December.

White vs. Metal Fillings

Amalgam dental fillings have been used successfully for generations. However, options like composite (white) fillings are becoming more popular. Which one is better?

Financing Options for Dental Implants

Considering our Encino dental implants? Concerned about the cost? If you’re in the early stages of considering dental implant therapy, here are some important things to know.

Side-Effects of Missing Teeth

Planning to have a tooth taken out? Did you lose a tooth due to an injury? Here are some of the consequences of tooth loss and what can happen if you don’t replace it quickly enough.

Are You a Candidate for Dental Implants?

Dental implants are an amazing way to replace missing teeth. Their strength, predictability, and non-invasive design makes them one of the best options for restoring your smile!

Dental Crowns vs. Fillings

A broken, cracked, or decaying tooth can impact your diet and self-confidence. But with so many types of restorative options — especially dental fillings and crowns — how can you know which treatment is best for your needs?