Recently, 60 Minutes ran a story reporting on the increasing evidence that the consumption of excess sugar may not only be contributing to the obvious epidemics of obesity and type 2 diabetes in this country, but also to hypertension, heart disease, and even cancer. Sugar, as it is now being discovered, may even be as addictive as cocaine – causing overeaters to build up a tolerance and require more and more sugar in order to maintain the same pleasurable effects in the brain.
In fact, as it is reported by 60 Minutes, at least 75% of the disease now being associated with the over-consumption of sugar is preventable with simple dietary changes. But there is one disease that is left off that list over and over again, a disease that is equally important, and left unchecked can spiral into a perpetual condition that spreads disease throughout the body and, in extreme cases, may even lead to death. That disease is tooth decay.
The mouth is a barometer for the body. If there is enough sugar and acid in the mouth to cause decay, then there is too much sugar and acid in the body as well. A cavity is not just an indication that you should brush and floss your teeth more – it's the body's warning signal that something in your diet is out of balance enough to allow pathogenic cells and bacteria to thrive.
We all eat more sugar than we should, but we also often eat far more sugar than we are aware of. This month, we have created two new resources to help you make better dietary choices and reduce the amount of added sugars you are consuming. A Guide to Added Sweeteners offers information on how different forms of sugar affect your body and how to recognize each of them on nutrition labels; and Drinks That Eat Teeth will help you understand exactly how much additional sugar and acid you are consuming in just one soda, juice, or energy drink.
In my practice, I have seen many patients who require full-mouth reconstructions based solely on a habit of sipping soda all day long. But not everyone can afford this kind of dental treatment, and many people in this country loose their teeth to decay without any way to replace them. The ability to chew is one of the most important components of gaining proper nutrition. Without it, we must eat food that is softened and processed to the point that the fiber and vital nutrients necessary to optimal health are lost. Time and again, I see people struggling with this cycle in my work with the Medical Teams International Dental Van, but it doesn't have to be this way.
Dental decay is 95% preventable through diet and simple brushing and flossing techniques, and an additional 3-4 % can be prevented with well-placed preventive resins or sealants. I urge you to take a closer look at the added sugars in your diet and to do everything you can to eliminate them. Your teeth and your body will thank you for it.