Understanding The Sugars In The Foods You Eat

Sugar isn't good for your teeth because the bacteria in your mouth convert both the sugars and complex carbohydrates in foods to acids. Those acids erode tooth enamel, which can lead to decay. However, becoming informed about the sugars in the foods you eat can contribute to better dental health.

Reading Food Labels

The labels on food packages give you the ingredients list and nutrition information for a food product, so you know what you are consuming. You can find the sugar content listed under sugars or carbohydrates.

Read the ingredients list carefully because even if a food contains no added sugar, it could contain a natural sweetener such as honey, molasses, or evaporated cane sugar (evaporated cane juice) -- which isn't much different from white sugar. Look for the words "barley malt" or "rice syrup" as these sweeteners often are used in foods as well.

Beware when you read that a product contains ingredients like fructose and sucrose. When you see ingredients that end in "ose," it means a product contains natural sweeteners. It doesn't matter what form a natural sweetener comes in, it's just as harmful to your teeth as refined white sugar. Refined sugar is mostly sucrose, which has other health implications, such as raising blood sugar levels.

Knowing the Meaning of Sugar-Free

What does "sugar-free" really mean? It seems like a simple question, but the answer can be tricky. Some products that food companies advertise as sugar-free have no sugar added during food processing -- the combining of different raw ingredients to make a new food product. A sugar-free product has no refined sugar, but that doesn't mean the food doesn't contain other natural sweeteners or a sugar substitute.

Recognizing Sugar Substitutes

Although sugar substitutes look and taste like sugar, they aren't broken down in the same way. That's good news for your teeth since there will be fewer acids in your mouth to cause tooth decay.

Sugar isn't what destroys tooth enamel. The acids that bacteria in dental plaque produce when breaking down sugar are what erode tooth enamel, making your teeth susceptible to decay.

Artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes contained in foods include sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, and isomalt. Saccharin, aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame potassium, and advantame are some of the most popular sugar substitutes available in the U.S.

Learning What's In Raw Cane Sugar

The truth is natural sugar cane is loaded with vitamins, minerals, fibers, enzymes, and phytonutrients (antioxidants) the body needs to stay healthy. It's the process of refining raw sugar cane into white sugar that makes it unhealthy. Refining destroys most of the nutrients, but leaves plenty of empty calories behind.

Understanding the Benefits of Chewing Sugarless Gum

While dentists discourage eating candy and other sweets, chewing sugarless gum is good for your teeth as sugar substitutes in the gum increase saliva flow. The saliva in your mouth is your first defense for neutralizing those nasty acids responsible for tooth decay. The chewing action also helps dislodge food particles that get stuck between your teeth and become breeding grounds for cavity-causing bacteria.

For more information on the sugars in your foods and how the affect your teeth, talk to a dentist like Dr. Henry A Cathey.