Sugar and your smile

If you are reading this article you are either on a diet or interested in losing weight. So what has dental health got to do with that? Well, you are losing weight because you are determined to take care of either your health or your physical appearance. What could be more important then that a bright, white smile? Especially on that day of all days – when you reach your target weight.

Like losing weight, taking care of your teeth is not all about food. Tooth decay is influenced by many different factors, some of which you can and cannot change. These include:

·How carefully you clean your teeth and how religious you are about visiting the dentist

·Whether your water supply flouridated


·The types of foods you eat

·How often you eat or drink

However, what you can change is the types of foods that you eat and the frequency in which you eat them. Let’s get our teeth into the important stuff right away. You don’t need a nutritionist to tell you that sweet or sugary foods are not the best option if you are aiming for a pearly, white smile. Your face has fallen already.

Don’t worry, sugar does have a place in our diet when it comes to a quick boost of energy or for an occasional treat. What I’ve done is come up with a few tips on healthier ways to eat if you want to take care of that all-important smile.

Sweet & sour - what is an acid attack?

When we eat, foods containing sugars or starch can be broken down by bacteria in the mouth to produce acids. These acids, in turn, attack the enamel of the teeth. We suffer from tooth decay when teeth are exposed to these acid attacks too often. After an acid attack, saliva provides a natural repair process, which rebuilds the enamel.

When sugary foods are consumed too frequently, it’s impossible for this natural repair process to occur and teeth don’t have time to recover between attacks. The result is tooth decay and extra trips to the dentist.

When & how often?

Don’t panic! We are not saying that you should cut out all sugary foods completely. Everyone needs a sweet treat now and again, and sugar itself is not that high in calories. It’s the combination of sugar and fat, for example in cakes, biscuits and chocolate, that you have to watch when dieting.

But if you do have a sweet tooth, it’s actually better to eat sweet foods right after a meal than between meals. It’s also worth remembering that what you drink can be just as important for your teeth. Fizzy drinks contain a lot of acid, which can attack your teeth directly. Dentists call this ‘erosion’.

Diet drinks are better, since they don’t contain sugar, but be careful not to live on them during your diet or you might not be smiling when you reach your target weight! If you do want a ‘sweet fix’ when counting your calories, try to have just one or two cans of diet fizzy drinks each day. Again, drink them you’re your meal rather than between meals to protect your teeth. The best drinks between meals are milk (skimmed or semi-skimmed to keep your fat down!) or water and tea or coffee which don’t harm your teeth.

Sound bites

Here are a few low-sugar, tooth-friendly and diet-friendly snack ideas to keep you going between meals:

· Toast and low-fat spread. Stay away from jams and honey!

· Unsweetened breakfast cereals. Be careful! some of the sweetened ones are loaded with sugar.

· Sugar-free yoghurt or fromage frais.

· A piece of low-fat cheese, babybel light, for example

· Pop-corn

· Plain biscuits, bread sticks or crackers

· Sandwiches with low-fat fillings

· Scones, fruit buns or bagels

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