As a family dentist in Fuquay-Varina, we often see the damage that high-sugar diets can cause in our patients, which is why our team is often telling our patients to avoid sugar to improve dental health. We understand that can be easier said than done because:
- Sugar triggers a dopamine release in our brains and it’s highly addictive.
- Sugar is incredibly pervasive in our foods and beverages – even healthy and savory items.
Our recommended added sugar intake is around 36 grams for men and 25 grams for women, but the average American consumes twice that at 72 grams per day. That’s around 17 teaspoons of added sugar (not the natural sugar that’s in whole grains or fruit) per day, so it’s no wonder so many people say they struggle with giving it up.
To help you beat the sugar addiction and cut out the cravings, we’re sharing some tips and tricks that make it easy!
Why Is Sugar So Dangerous?
Before we dive into how to beat sugar addiction, let’s look at why we should kick the sugar in the first place.
Sugar Leads to Tooth Decay
Here’s the surprising thing – sugar itself does not cause tooth decay and cavities. There’s bacteria in your mouth that feeds on sugar, and when it does so, it produces an acidic byproduct which removes minerals from your tooth enamel in a process called demineralization. While remineralization does occur, especially in people with diets containing calcium and phosphate, and using fluoride-enriched toothpaste, it often can’t keep up to protect enamel in people with high sugar diets. This means the enamel is weakened and leaves the tooth vulnerable to cavities and decay.
Sugar Causes Inflammation
Inflammation can be your body’s way of fighting off infection and allowing injuries to heal, but this immune response, when sustained, can lead to chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is a root cause of a variety of serious health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
Sugar, specifically the spikes and flatlines of blood sugar levels and increased production of uric acid can trigger inflammation and exacerbate chronic inflammation, which, in relation to dental health, makes gum disease more likely and leaves you vulnerable to abscesses and other serious issues.
5 Tips to Beat Sugar
So, now you know what sugar does, let’s look at how you can cut it out of your life, or at least make smart choices to cut back on your intake.
Read Your Labels
Just being aware of what you’re eating may be enough to help you make better choices. For example, a 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola has 39 grams of sugar – well over the one-day recommended amount. Even foods considered healthy, like yogurt and protein bars, or savory, like spaghetti sauce, can be sources of hidden sugar.
Drink More Water
Our brains often mistake thirst for hunger, so if you feel like you want a snack, grab a glass of water first to see if you’re actually thirsty. Plus, water has the added benefit of rinsing away debris and bacteria from your teeth.
Eat More Protein
Protein can keep you feeling full for longer and provide you with more energy than carbs. This means you’re less likely to reach for a sugary snack when you want a quick pick-me-up or when you’re feeling peckish. Consider cheese cubes, peanut butter, and almonds for great protein snack options.
Don’t Swap Sugar with Artificial Sugar
Studies on artificial sugar show that they can actually trick your brain into craving real sugar, so they can do more harm than good. Plus, artificial sweeteners are often used in sodas which are highly acidic and damaging to teeth anyway.
Try a Fruit Smoothie
If you’re really in the mood for something sweet, try a smoothie. Gather 2 cups of frozen berries, a banana, 1 cup of coconut milk, coconut water, or almond milk, add 1/4 cup of plain Greek yogurt or 2 tablespoons of peanut butter and throw it in a blender – perfect for breakfast in place of a sweet coffee drink or a dessert swap for ice cream.
Schedule an Appointment with Our Fuquay Varina Family Dentist
If you’re concerned about whether sugar has led to decay, schedule a dental checkup with us today. We’ll work with you to keep your teeth clean and healthy so you can show off your smile to the world. Request an appointment using our scheduling form or call our Fuquay Varina dentist office at 919-552-2431 today.