It is that time of the year where we start to think about what the New Year has in store for us and what we would like to accomplish in 2016. Resolutions encourage us to go beyond what we have been doing so far and challenge ourselves in ways we never thought we could.
While you may have your own resolutions you want to achieve, why not try adding some New Year resolutions for your teeth into the mix? Healthier teeth can lead to a brighter smile and smiling more puts you and the people around you in a happier mood. Hidden sugars can affect our oral health and smile so it is important to know how to enjoy treats without putting our oral health at risk.
A study in 2014 confirmed a direct link between the amount of sugar a person eats and the amount of tooth decay they have.
It comes as no surprise that chocolate, fizzy drinks and sweet treats are full of added sugar and bad for our teeth. Every time we eat or drink anything sugary, the sugar reacts with the plaque in our mouth which in turn produces harmful acids that can damage our teeth. Although it may not be immediately obvious, there are certain products to look out for that can contribute to dental decay.
There are two types of sugar – naturally occurring sugar like lactose in milk and added sugar, which includes table sugar (sucrose) as well as concentrated sources such as fruit juice.
The new recommendations from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the UK’s official nutrition advisors are that only 5% of your daily calorie intake should consist of added, or ‘free’ sugars. This equates to approximately five-six teaspoons (25g) for women and seven-eight teaspoons (35g) of sugar for men.
Spot the hidden sugar
Low-fat and ‘diet’ foods often contain extra sugar to help improve their taste and palatability and to add bulk and texture in the place of fat. Even savoury foods, like ready-made soups and sauces (eg. ketchup) may contain added sugar. A can of soft drink, on average, contains the equivalent of seven teaspoons of sugar. The natural sugar in some fruit, including apples, has increased as new varieties (including Pink Lady, Fuji and Jazz) are bred to satisfy our desire for greater sweetness.
Look on the label
Discover how much sugar is in your food by doing these simple checks:
Ø Check the ingredients list for anything ending in ‘ose’ (glucose, sucrose, fructose, lactose, maltose) – these are all forms of sugar, as are honey, agave, molasses and syrups like corn and rice syrup. The higher up the ingredients list, the more sugar the product contains.
Ways to cut down on Sugar
Snacking between meals isn’t just bad on your waistline, it’s bad for your teeth. Reduce snacking to the minimum and choose healthy snacks such as nuts, cheese, oatcakes, breadsticks or a piece of fruit. Keep sugary snacks for mealtimes only and be cautious of the amount.
Reduce the sugar you add to hot drinks. Do this gradually to give your taste buds time to adjust.Try adding a sprinkle of cinnamon to your cappuccino! Alternatively, add sweetener in your hot drinks. Sweeteners are sugar substitutes which provide a sweet taste like that of sugar while containing significantly less food energy. Some sugar substitutes are natural and some are synthetic. Examples of available sweeteners are listed below:
· Aspartame: Aspartame is widely used in several products such as diet drinks, chewing gums, yogurts, sugar free syrups etc. The safety of aspartame has been studied extensively. Aspartame has been deemed safe for human consumption by over 100 regulatory agencies in their respective countries, including the UK Food Standards Agency, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and Canada’s Health Canada.
· Stevia: Stevia is a green, leafy plant that is native to South America. This naturally derived sweetener has been widely used as a natural sweetener in South America and in Japan due to its unique characteristics of zero glycemic index and zero calories. A similar sweetener commercially available is Truvia.
· Xylitol: Xylitol is a “tooth-friendly”, non-fermentable sugar alcohol. It has an extremely low glycaemic index of 7 (glucose has a GI of 100). Xylitol has no known toxicity or carcinogenicity in humans, and is considered safe by the FDA. Chewing a sugar-free xylitol chewing gum after snacking will promote the production of saliva and will neutralise the acid in the mouth, decreasing the risk of decay.
Keep fizzy drinks to mealtimes only. Even the sugar-free versions are still quite acidic and can cause enamel erosion leading to tooth surface loss.
Swap white bread, rice and pasta for wholegrain versions like oats, granary and wholemeal breads, brown rice and pasta.
Reduce the sugar in recipes and add spices to boost flavour and taste. Xylitol can be used in home-baking as a replacement for regular sugar (ratio 1:1) although it won’t brown as much and it can’t be used where yeast is the raising agent. The same applies to sucralose.
For a pick me up, have a piece of whole fruit with a handful of nuts or a small tub of plain yogurt. Both contain protein which helps balance blood sugar and energy.
Hidden Sugars video
Denplan Snack choices
NHS Choices: How does sugar affect our Health?
NHS Choices: Added Sugars: Top sources of added sugar in our diet
This blog was written by Anastasios Plessas (Associate Dentist) – January 2016
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