Sipping Sugar All Day Can Lead to Decay
The simple advice of “brush after every meal” does not fit the bill for most American families because it ignores a huge factor that impacts our daily oral health; what we drink.
Everything we eat and drink changes the germ producing atmosphere of our mouths, some for the better and others for the worst. We often forget that what we drink has as much of a connection, if not more, to dental decay as the foods we eat.
Whenever an individual eats or drinks, the sugars and starches mix with the mouth’s bacteria, also known as plaque. When plaque is mixed with what we drink and eat, it produces an acid attack in our mouth that breaks down our teeth’s enamel and leaves them weak and vulnerable to decay. With every sip and snack, we start a 20 minute acid attack on our teeth. Even soda waters and diet drinks cause acid attacks due to the acidity levels in the carbonation and artificial sweeteners. This is why brushing and flossing only after meals may not keep cavities away, particularly if you sip juice, soda or coffee all day.
The health risks of sodas and energy drinks have prompted the California State Legislature to consider a bill (SB 1000) that would make California the first state to require warning labels on sugary drinks, similar to those on cigarettes. For those that don’t know the risks, the warning may prompt some serious thought. According to First 5 Contra Costa’s website, CutSugaryDrinks.org, children today drink twice as many calories as children did thirty years ago. Additionally, it states that children who drink soda, which have no nutritional value, double their risks for tooth decay. Nearly half of California’s children have cavities by Kindergarten. Furthermore, it is estimated that for every sugary beverage a child drinks per day, their chance of obesity increases by 60%.
Do not fear! There is a miracle drink to rescue teeth from a sugary defeat. Water is the only drink that doesn’t stick to your teeth and can be used as a natural mouthwash to swish away acid attacks. In addition to being a free way to hydrate your body, water helps keep the major organs of the body functioning normally. It may take some time to make the switch from sugary drinks, so here are some tips to ease the transition:
- Serve water with lemon or low-fat milk with meals instead of soda or juices.
- Add slices of fruit or vegetables to your water to add natural flavor and sweetness.
- Don’t be fooled by the claims of 100% juice and wean children off the juice box.
- Use a straw to help get into the habit of sipping water instead of soda.
- Chew gum with Xylitol to help reduce the chance of tooth decay and help replace the urge for something sweet.
The Academy of Cosmetic Surgery (www.aacd.com) recommends the following “teeth healthy” recipe, which contains foods that are known to help contribute to healthy smiles:
CARROT-PINEAPPLE GINGER SALAD
- 2 - 3 large carrots, organic preferred (carrots naturally clean teeth)
- 1 fresh or 14 ounce canned pineapple, peeled and cored (pineapple is a natural tooth whitener)
- ½ teaspoon fresh ginger, grated (ginger is an anti-inflammatory to support healthy mouth tissue)
Wash, peel and grate carrots to measure 2 cups. Cut the pineapple in half and cut one half into chunks. Place the chunks in a blender and mix only until slightly smooth and still chunky. The pineapple should look juicy yet not like a “smoothie.” Place the remaining uncut half of the pineapple in a glass mixing bowl. Using a sharp knife and a fork, slice the pineapple, and then continue to cut the pineapple into tid-bit size pieces- approximately 1/4” in size. This will ensure all the juice from the pineapple will be in the bowl to flavor the carrots. In your mixing bowl with the pineapple tidbits, combine the grated carrots, blended pineapple, and grated ginger. Stir gently to mix flavors. Refrigerate in a glass container to chill, about an hour.
Makes 6 servings. Nutrition information per serving: 48 calories; 0.2 g total fat; 0 g saturated fat; 0 mg cholesterol; 26.0 mg sodium; 12.2 g carbohydrates; 2.0 g fiber; 8.2 g sugars; 0.7 g protein.
Sarah Vogel is Redwood Community Action Agency’s Program Manager for TOOTH, a preventative oral health education program. Sarah has a BS in Paralegal Studies, a Master’s degree in Nonprofit Administration from the University of San Francisco and a passion for preventing dental disease in Humboldt County.