Lately, the sugar industry has been under pressure from public health advocates, and deservedly so. Just this year, the WHO changed their guidelines on sugar intake, recommending that adults and children reduce their daily caloric intake of sugars to 10% or less of total calories. Now the ADA is weighing in as well. Dental Hygiene is very important to every one.
In an article released on May 12th, the ADA states its support of more research on the effects of sugar intake, and for more transparency in labeling added sugars, including a proposal from the Food and Drug Administration to add a new line under food ingredients that shows the amount of added sugars the food contains.
Scientifically supported policies
The ADA bases its position in large part on consistent and repeated findings that the incidence of dental caries is directly related to the amount of sugar consumed. Sugary products marketed directly to children pose an even greater threat to public health because it has been found that cavities occurring early in life– even in deciduous teeth– are likely to negatively impact the oral health of that individual as an adult.
Furthermore, the rapidly growing body of evidence linking systemic diseases with oral inflammation all indicate that reducing sugar consumption will not only limit cavities, but can have real impacts on the general health of our communities– possibly reducing the incidence of heart disease and dementia, for example.
But why, sugar– why?
Why is sugar so bad when it tastes so good? Scientists theorize that we developed a taste for sugar because it benefited our early ancestors’ nutrition; a lust for sweets ensured prehistoric people got the proper vitamins, perhaps. However, in the modern world, where candy bars and soda drinks are at our fingertips, a hunger for sugar is no longer an evolutionary advantage.
Forget obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and the host of other diseases caused by excess sugar consumption, and let’s focus on oral health for a minute. We all know that sugar causes cavities– but how exactly?
Sugar’s wicked game
The path from the candy bar you eat to the cavity you get filled is an indirect one. Sugar in itself isn’t drilling away at dental enamel, what it is doing is feeding the bacteria that will. Bacteria feast on sugars– in fact, some are even able to change their own metabolism to fit the most abundant type of sugar in their environment. When you eat sugar, you’re directly feeding bacteria in your mouth.
When bacteria consume sugar they form a metabolic byproduct that is extremely acidic. Not only this, but they’re eating while sitting comfortably on your teeth– or along the gum line where people frequently miss brushing. All that acid they produce goes right on top of your dental enamel and erodes it, leading to cavities.
Avoid the perfect storm
If a high sugar intake is coupled with poor dental hygiene, this creates the perfect storm for cavities, periodontitis, and gingivitis. With nothing to stop them from their frenzied feasting (like daily toothbrushing) and an endless food supply, bacterial reign in the oral cavity and create a lot of problems.
This is why health organizations like the ADA and WHO are pressing for more stringent guidelines to sugar additives and recommendations. They know that the fight against oral health problems is a multi-faceted one, and the want to attack it from every angle.
Palo Alto dental care that fights the good fight with you
While other organizations battle sugar regulations, our office is here to provide great preventative care that will keep you healthy and smiling. Daily dental hygiene and regular appointments with Dr. Scheel are the key ingredients to oral health!
Schedule your next appointment today.