Monday, May 7, 2012

How your sweet tooth can ruin your real teeth

I definitely have a sweet tooth: I carry packets of sweetener in my purse. Ever since I’ve started cooking for myself this year, I have been eating more sweets. I wonder if this is related to my sudden increase in cavities. At my last dentist visit, I had three cavities filled. I only had two cavities during my entire four years at Rice where I had a meal plan.

Let’s talk: sweets and how they can ruin your teeth. First of all, close that FoodPornDaily tab. Researchers at Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry have shown that viewing pictures of food triggers a physiological response signaling hunger.

Teeth can dissolve through two ways. First, when you consume sugar the bacteria in your oral flora break those down to produce acid. This causes dental caries. Second is enamel erosion when you consume low pH foods (orange juice, carbonated sodas, wine) and those acids directly attack teeth surfaces. Clinically there is a distinction between the two since the causes are different.

De Graf and Zandstra found that children are less sensitive to sweetness than adolescents and adults. This explains why kids can flood their ice cream cups with sprinkles. This is unfortunate because children are also less likely to brush their teeth regularly.

In the first case, if you are not planning on giving up your sweet tooth anytime soon, what can you do? First, consume your sweets at meal time. Then brush your teeth using tap water which probably contains fluoride. The frequency of sugar consumption is just as important as (or perhaps more than) amount of sugar consumed.

I ate this for dinner yesterday. Courtesy of Caitlin the cheesecake goddess:
2012-05-06 19.20.21
Use sweetener when possible. Bugs do not recognize sweetener, so they will not metabolize it to produce lactic acid. However there are still questions about whether sweetener is safe, so you don’t get a free ticket.

Eat these foods that may have an anti-cariogenic effect: milk, cheese, peanuts, sugar-free gum (xylitol), fibrous foods. Most important thing is to floss every day & brush your teeth at least twice a day. If you want to see some visual images to that will encourage better dental hygiene… give me a call. I clutch my poor teeth looking at awful images at work.

Fun fact: Infants are not born with oral flora. Parents (by kissing them or feeding them bird-style) infect their babies around 26 months.