Taking Care of Your Body and Your Teeth at the Same Time
By Shawn Marie Watson with Colby Jenkins Pn1, Lifepath Wellness Centre
March is a busy month for health and wellness. It is ‘National Nutrition Month’ and ‘World Oral Health Day’ falls on March 20th this year as well. There is a strong connection between the health of our mouth and our overall health and wellness, it is important for us to consider the impact each one has on the other. Our diet can impact both our weight management and oral health in an adverse way.
The common denominator that links oral health and nutrition is sugar. Sugar impacts our health by spiking insulin beyond normal levels. When this occurs, excess insulin that is left over from what our body does not use is converted into fat and stored in our bodies.
Many people are starting to become more aware of the amount of sugar they consume in the foods they eat, however what most of us are not aware of is how hidden sugars sneak into our food and beverages. Sugar can appear in your foods as: molasses, honey, sorghum, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, glucose, fructose, lactose, dextrose, sucrose, galactose, and maltose.
A considerable amount of sugar can be found in many foods that most people would assume to be low in sugar, such as spaghetti sauce, bread, ketchup, low fat products and beverages such as Vitamin Water and Gatorade:
1 Cup of Tomato Sauce = 10 grams of sugar
2 Slices of White Bread = 3 grams of sugar
1 Tablespoon of Ketchup = 3.7 grams of sugar
6oz Low-fat Yogurt = 14 grams of sugar
1-20oz Bottle of Vitamin Water = 32 grams of sugar
1-8oz Bottle of Gatorade = 14 grams of sugar
Excess sugar in our diets is also very harmful to our teeth. Bacteria found inside the mouth feeds off of the sugar we eat. Acid is produced which attacks the tooth, causing decay. Avoiding sugar can be difficult, especially when many healthy food options such and fruit and dairy products contain natural sugars. The best way to avoid tooth decay from excess sugar is to brush and floss after eating. If this is not an option, rinsing your mouth with water will help to clear excess food particles and any lingering sugar. In addition to brushing and flossing, there are foods that help to clean your teeth after meals. They include:
- Cheese: Eating cheese between meals is very beneficial for your teeth. Cheese raises the pH levels in your mouth, which in turn lowers the amount of acid and reduces your risk of developing tooth decay. Cheese also increases the amount of saliva in your mouth, which washes away sugars and excess food particles.
- Fibrous Fruits and Vegetables: Eating fibrous foods such as apples, carrots, and celery clean your teeth while you eat and also help to produce saliva which washes away sugars. Saliva also neutralizes the acid that causes tooth decay.
It can be very easy for the amount of sugar in your diet to add up to an unhealthy amount. If you find you have a sweet tooth after cutting out added and hidden sugars, there are great alternatives out there such as Truvia and Stevia which are zero calorie all natural sweeteners derived from the Stevia Leaf. Xylitol is another natural sweetener that has many benefits for your teeth. There is some research that suggests Xylitol prevents the formation of cavities because the bacteria in the mouth is not able to use sugar to produce acid. Artificial sweeteners such as Splenda (sucralose), Sweet and Low (sodium cyclamate or saccharine), and NutraSweet (aspartame) are not recommended because of the adverse health effects they can have on your health. Brushing and flossing between meals, taking the time to find out how much sugar is in the foods you eat, and limiting unnecessary sugar from your diet are simple ways to become healthier overall.