January 13 – 17, 2020 marks National Sugar Awareness Week, offing a great opportunity to reassess your relationship with this ubiquitous sweetener. Sugar is one of the most commonly abused substances in the world, and one whose excess consumption can lead to serious – even fatal – health complications.
How Much Sugar do We Consume?
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that adult males consume no more than 37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons of sugar per day. For women, the AHA recommends no more than 20 grams/6 teaspoons. Children under 18 should consume fewer than 20 grams, with young children avoiding all added sugars.
There are 120 teaspoons in a pound of sugar. According to SugarAwareness.Com, the average American consumes 150 to 170 pounds of sugar each year. That’s around 50 teaspoons a day on the low end. More than double the amount of sugar that is recommended for most and far beyond the carbohydrate intake our bodies need to create energy.
The problem isn’t that we consume sugar, it’s how much sugar we consume. Sugar does not have to be a health hazard. We make it one when we abuse it.
What Does Sugar Do to Your Body?
Refraining from excessive sugar intake isn’t punitive. Sugar consumption is conclusively linked to obesity, chronic diseases including type 2 diabetes, and an increased risk for heart attack and stroke. Sugar may increase acne production, cause the skin to age prematurely, and increase cellular aging. Sugar also increases the risk of a fatty liver and certain types of cancer.
In the brain, sugar can have a profound impact on cognition, memory, and mood. Studies have found that added sugars reduce chemicals in the brain that are essential for memory formation and learning. What’s more, studies have shown that emotional processing is compromised in young people who consume excessive amounts of sugar.
Of course, most of these risks are related to refined sugars that have been added to foods such as high fructose corn syrup, white sugar, evaporated cane juice, and brown sugar. Naturally occurring sugars, such as those found in fruit, do not pose the same medical risks as processed simple sugars.
What Does Sugar do to Your Teeth?
It may surprise you to learn that sugar doesn’t do anything to your teeth. The bacteria that are attracted to sugar, on the other hand, can do remarkable damage. Sugar is a carbohydrate. When consumed, carbohydrates stick to the surface of the teeth where they remain until removed through brushing or other methods of tooth cleaning.
The microbiome in our mouths contain bacteria that feed on carbohydrates like simple sugars, producing an acidic waste product as a result. When sugars attach to the teeth, these bacteria get to work quickly, dissolving enamel and causing decay. This can, over time, lead to cavities, tooth infection, and increased risks for gum disease. Those issues can, by turns, result in chronic bad breath, persistent discomfort, tooth loss, and increased risk for serious systemic diseases and illnesses.
Can Damage be Prevented?
The good news is, tooth decay, infection, and gum disease are preventable. Simply:
- Reduce your intake of sugary foods and beverages
- Brush your teeth after every meal and snack*
- Floss before you brush your teeth both morning and night
- Visit our office every six months for cleanings and examinations
*Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and nonabrasive toothpaste to brush your teeth for at least two minutes after every meal and snack. Be sure to wait at least 30 minutes before you brush after eating sugary or acidic foods to help prevent damaging softened enamel. Make sure you are drinking plenty of water in between brushing to keep the surface of your teeth healthy and clean.
Contact Highpoint Dental to Schedule an Appointment
If it has been longer than six months since your last visit to the dentist, call Highpoint Dental at 303-617-9100 to schedule your next appointment right away. Biannual visits help prevent tooth decay and other serious oral health problems.
Highpoint Dental is a family dentistry practice located in Aurora, Colorado. We welcome patients of all ages.