It’s no secret that on average Americans consume a lot of sugar on a daily basis. In a study conducted in 2014, Americans consume 126 grams of sugar: that’s the equivalent of drinking three cans of Coke per day. It’s also nearly 25% more sugar than is consumed in the next highest sugar consuming country, more than twice the average sugar intake worldwide, and more than twice what the World Health Organization recommends (50 grams daily).
That’s a lot of sugar! And it’s certainly contributing to the obesity problem. Among the many factors that lead us to be unhealthy, perhaps the biggest perpetrator is sipping sugary beverages and snacking on junk food. This habit leads not only to bigger waistlines, more cardiovascular problems, and more cases of diabetes, it’s a contributing factor to gum disease and cavities.
What’s So Bad About Sipping and Snacking?
The general concept of sipping and snacking isn’t fundamentally bad. If you’re watching your nutrition and generally eating healthy, sipping on water and having a healthy snack between lunch and dinner can be helpful to keeping your appetite at bay and keeping your blood sugar up. However, many people enjoy sipping full-calorie sodas or energy drinks and grazing on chips, cookies, and other junk food during the day. The habit is so pervasive, you’re like doing just that as you read this article.
This habit is bad for you on two levels: on one hand, it’s adding a lot of calories to your everyday diet, even though you may just think of it as a few extra calories every day. On the other hand, it’s also causing havoc on your oral health.
What Damage is Sipping and Snacking Doing to My Teeth?
When you chew and eat food, small particles get stuck in your gums and between your teeth. The sugars in that food break down and become plaque: the sticky, smelly white substance you find in between your teeth when you floss. The bacteria in plaque create an acid that is very corrosive to your teeth and wears down the enamel, the protective coating on your teeth. This leads to cavities and gum diseases.
You’re always at risk of plaque, which is why it’s recommended to brush twice a day. However, sipping, snacking, and general grazing can make your corrosion problem worse. After you’ve eaten, the acid stays on your enamel for up to 20 minutes. When you sip and snack, the time that the acid sits on your enamel is lengthened considerably, exposing your teeth to more corrosion and decay. In other words, it’s making your risk of getting cavities worse.
What Can I Do about Cavities or Prevent Cavities?
If you already have cavities, then you need to go to your dentist to have it diagnosed and filled, unfortunately. There’s no turning back the clock and undoing a cavity without a dental procedure. However, you can always lower your risk of cavities with a few simple adjustments to your daily lifestyle:
- Limit Snacking Between Meals – the more snacking you do, the more likely you are to expose your teeth to more acid. Limiting how much you snack can help keep plaque from beginning to form in your mouth.
- Limit Sugary Drinks – Sports drinks, sodas, and energy drinks are really just extra calories that your body doesn’t need and expose your teeth and gums to a lot of sugar. Be mindful of what drinks you’re putting into your body and how much sugar you’re really getting.
- If You Consume High Sugar Food and Drink, Combine Them with Meals – Chewing encourages saliva production and saliva helps neutralize the acid created by sugar while helping to break down the particles that can turn into plaque.
- Chew Sugarless Gum – Again, chewing helps your body create saliva and chewing sugarless gum will limit excess sugar while producing more acid-neutralizing sugar. Make sure that you get sugarless gum that has the ADA’s Seal of Acceptance on it.
- Drink More Water – Tap water uses fluoride, a mineral that can help prevent cavities. Drinking more tap water can help you prevent and fight cavities regularly. Even just sipping water after you’ve had sugar food or drink will help wash away sugar and small food particles and help keep the acid away.
- Regular Dentist Visits – Keep going to your regularly scheduled dentist appointments. Your dentist will help you keep your mouth healthy by providing fluoride treatments and cleanings, and providing you with more information and knowledge about how to keep your teeth cavity-free.
Should I Just Get Rid of All Sugar from My Diet?
It can be hard to get away from added sugars – they’re so readily available in a lot of food! However, you can’t just remove all the sugar from your diet, nor should you. Sugar and carbohydrates are in many foods that are good for you and it’s not something that you can just give up. Milk, fruits, and vegetables, while they do have sugar also have nutrients and vitamins that are good and necessary for you to stay healthy. Focusing on good dental hygiene, keeping a healthy diet, and cutting back on sipping and snacking will help keep your mouth healthy.
Contact Hamby Family Dental Center Today
If you’re concerned that your sipping and snacking habit may be contributing to cavities, make an appointment with Hamby Family Dental Center today. Conveniently located in Fuquay Varina, we’ve got the decades of expertise in helping families like yours keep their mouths healthy. Contact us today by calling 919-552-2431 or filling out our Request an Appointment form.