We’ve all heard about the dangers of addictions, especially life-threatening addictions to substances like nicotine, alcohol and drugs. But you may not realize that there is another type of addictive substance that can wreak havoc with your oral health – sugar. While craving sweets and desserts may not sound serious, eating too much sugar can lead to poor oral health. And since poor oral health is closely linked to other health issues – such as heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease, for example – developing tooth decay and gum disease can negatively impact not just your oral health, but your overall health as well. That’s why we’ve compiled some helpful tips on how to curb your sugar cravings. But first, let’s examine the effects of sugar on your teeth and gums.
How Eating Sugar Impacts Oral Health
Although it may not be too pleasant to think about, the truth is that all of us have a certain amount of bacteria in our mouths. Sugar feeds bad bacteria and encourages the development of acidic byproducts. It’s that acidic substance that dissolves tooth enamel, which is the protective outer layer of teeth, allowing decay to form and making teeth overly sensitive. But that’s not the only problem created by eating too much sugar – it also decreases the pH level inside your mouth, and that decrease in pH leads to a much greater chance of developing tooth decay. While good oral hygiene is vital in order to maintain healthy teeth and gums, no amount of brushing and flossing can repair the damage created by consuming too much sugar. There is really only one solution: decrease your sugar intake.
Dealing with Sugar Cravings
Make no mistake about it – sugar cravings are just as real as any other craving. And while the yearning for sugar may not be as intense as a smoker wanting a cigarette or an alcoholic craving a drink, the desire to eat sugar is incredibly strong for some people. Fortunately, there are a few ways to curb your sweet tooth, including the following:
- Eat fruit. Although there’s no doubt that fruits contain natural sugars, and that some are acidic, fruit is still a better choice than candy or baked goods. Fruit also contains a variety of vitamins and minerals, all of which benefit your overall health. Remember that the refined sugar contained in desserts and other sweets is what negatively impacts your oral health, so try substituting that with a piece of fruit.
- Chew sugar-free gum. If possible, choose a brand that is sweetened with xylitol. Unlike some other sweeteners, xylitol is actually good for you. And it doesn’t feed plaque-producing bacteria inside your mouth.
- Kick the soda habit. Some people don’t realize how much sugar they’re consuming in soda and energy drinks. If that weren’t bad enough, many of these products are highly acidic as well, making them even more harmful for your teeth and gums. Reach for water or low fat milk instead of soda and energy drinks.
It may take some time, but you CAN control your sugar cravings and enjoy healthier teeth and gums as a result. And you don’t have to give up sugar altogether. Simply reducing your intake can lead to better oral health.