Sugars in food and drinks play a major role in the development of tooth decay. Bacteria within the plaque use the sugar as energy and release acid as a waste product, which gradually dissolves the enamel in the teeth.
Everyone is at risk of tooth decay, but children and teens are most at risk. Dental caries are the most common cause of tooth loss in young people. Plaque begins to build up on teeth only 20 minutes after we begin eating and if it is not removed effectively, tooth decay starts. People who regularly consume sugar have a higher risk of developing dental caries, particularly if the food they eat is sticky or consumed in between mealtimes. Sugar-containing snacks and sweetened beverages have particularly bad effects on teeth.
We currently consume far too much sugar in our diets. A report published by the World Health Organisation highlights the need for a reduction in sugars intake to 5% of our energy intake. This is the equivalent of 7 teaspoons/cubes or 30g of sugar per day for an adult. The recommendation for children is 24g for children aged 5-11 and 19g for children aged 4-6. This 5% limit is far below the current intake which is of 11.9% in children aged 1.5 to 3; 14.7% in children aged 4 to 10; and 15.6% in children 11 to 18. It is also thought that adherence to the 5% recommended sugar intake would halt the increase in obesity.
Ways to reduce your risk of tooth decay:
- Brushing teeth thoroughly twice a day with fluoride-containing toothpaste as well as flossing daily.
- Reducing the amount of sugars-containing sticky food, and rinsing the mouth with water if they are consumed.
- Reduce snacking; which helps reduce the production of acid in the mouth.
- Reduce the consumption of sugars-sweetened beverages.
- Only eat sugary foods at mealtimes.
To book an oral health review and talk to one of our general dentists about how you can protect your teeth from decay click here.