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Diet plays a big role in the maintenance of our teeth and gums. Many people are unaware of what foods are bad for our dental health. Did you know that carbohydrates are really just sugars in disguise? Luckily, our oral bacteria is unable to properly break down complex carbohydrates. However, simple sugars (monosaccharides) and links of simple sugars (disaccharides) can be broken down. Tooth decay occurs when bacteria break down these sugars producing acid as a byproduct. The acid sits on and between our teeth dissolving our teeth causing tooth decay.

Sugars That Cause Tooth Decay

Sucrose. Also known as common table sugar (also sometimes called saccharose). Sucrose is found in most candy, is the sweetest of all the sugars, and is broken down by Streptococcus Mutans.  S.Mutans is able to uniquely break down sucrose into dextran. Dextran acts as the glue for the bacteria to stick to teeth as well as act as a reserve food source for the bacteria. This glue makes dental plaque stickier and harder to remove. Sucrose is found in sugar cane, maple trees, and sugar beets.

Fructose. This sugar is found in nature in many fruits (berries, melons) and root vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes). Fructose is not as sweet as Sucrose. Where Fructose becomes a problem for our teeth is when it is concentrated as high fructose corn syrup. At that point it becomes far sweeter than sucrose, sticky, and easily broken down by bacteria to cause decay. High fructose syrup is widely used due to its cheapness and its liquid form. Low cost makes it far easier to use in many commercial products.

Glucose. This is the main energy source of our body. All of the other sugars ingested are broken down into glucose by the body. Glucose is broken down by bacteria as well and will cause  our teeth to decay.

Lactose. Also known as milk sugar. It is found in many dairy products (milk, yogurt, and cheeses). This is one of the rare sugars that is not sweet to the taste but it can still be broken down by our oral bacteria to produce acid in our mouths and lead to decay. In infants, milk left pooled in the mouth by sleeping with a bottle, can cause decay and thrush.

Maltose. Commonly found in bread, rice, cereals, and beer. Beer is especially dangerous as it contains sugar and is acidic. A detrimental combination for our teeth. Maltose, like lactose, does not taste very sweet.

Avoid Sugars?

Avoiding sugar in today’s modern world is quite impossible for many. As you can see above, sugars come in many forms and in a variety of foods. The key as always should be to take in sugars in moderation, and use thorough oral 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 obviously will not be avoided if we wish to be healthy.

Tips to Minimize Dangers From Sugar

Moderation. Ingest sugars in moderation.

Maintain Good Oral Hygiene. If you are eating lots of sugar be sure to brush if you can immediately following to remove and dissolve the majority of the byproduct acids. If you cannot brush, rinse thoroughly with water following eating sugars, and chew sugar free gum.

Drink Water. This will lessen effects of acidic attack on our teeth.

Conclusion

Let’s face it, most of us are not going to hold to a strict sugar free diet so it is important to maintain good oral hygiene. This is doubly important for children who tend to eat more candies than  adults. As always remember to visit your dentist regularly for dental examinations and professional cleanings.

Cranberries are a timeless traditional part of any family’s Thanksgiving day feast. But did you know they are also protectors of your teeth on this special holiday?

Studies have shown that cranberries can help as a defense against the harmful bacteria that causes tooth decay. During most Thanksgiving Day feasts, we consume large amounts of turkey, potatoes, stuffing, and desserts. These foods contain large amounts of carbohydrates and simple sugars that can increase our risk for tooth decay from the bacteria already present in our mouths. Tooth decay occurs as the bacteria feed on the sugars and carbohydrates releasing acids into your mouth that eat away at tooth enamel.

Where do Cranberries Come In?

The research team at Rochester Medical Center found that compounds naturally existing within the cranberry itself are able to make some of the bad bacteria (particularly Streptococcus Mutans) in our mouths vulnerable to destruction by the production of certain enzymes.

Work is now being done to isolate the particular compounds at work here. The hope is that tooth decay may meet a strong opponent in the very near future. Acid production responsible for cavities, periodontal disease, and a host of other dental problems could possibly be avoided.

Unfortunately, the cranberries at our dinner table do not do what the study proposes. These compounds within the cranberry would have to be drawn out of cranberries to be of any use. Cranberries are acid and high in sugar themselves, essentially negating the effects of the beneficial substances they contain. Research continues to convert these compounds into something usable for dental health.

Dental Health Tips For Thanksgiving

-Brush and floss your teeth after eating.

Crack nuts with a nutcracker, not your teeth.

-Drink plenty of water to wash away the sugars, acid, and carbohydrates while eating.

Have A Happy and Safe Thanksgiving!