How to eat sweets (and keep your teeth)
Hey sugar, let's talk about your teeth for a minute.
Most people can tell you that sugar is a risk factor to getting tooth decay (also known as tooth cavitation or caries). Which is true. But you may not realize that it's not HOW much sugar you consume but rather how MANY times you eat the sugar that contributes the most to the development of tooth cavitation. When looking at teeth in isolation without considering other elements (even though we all know everything in your body is interconnected), eating 1 large snicker bar in one sitting is the same as eating 1 small candy bar in the same sitting. The amount of times you expose your teeth to sugar is what promotes a prolonged acidic environment which ultimately leads to tooth breakdown. What you consume in a 20 minute period is considered "1 exposure". So theoretically having a sandwich, an apple and a candy bar in 15 minutes counts as 1 exposure. However, breaking up a large candy bar into 7 small pieces and eating it throughout the day can count as 7 different exposures.
I have a HUGE sweet tooth (I know I am a bad BAD dentist) so I definitely understand the struggle of sugar control. But there are a few simple things you can do to eat sweets and limit the harmful side effects.
1) CHOW DOWN QUICK | To minimize sugar exposure, pair your sweet intake with a meal so it can count as 1 exposure.
2) STAY LUBRICATED | Many people suffer from dry mouth due to lack of salivary flow also known as xerostomia. This is usually a side effect of common medications. Dry mouth can be extremely uncomfortable making it difficult to eat if severe. Saliva is also very important in neutralizing the acids in your mouth and protecting your teeth from cavitation. If you have dry mouth, sucking on a candy can increase saliva. However, make sure the candy is sugar free. If you're sucking on a sugar filled hard candy for 1 hour AND you have dry mouth you are working on a great recipe for rampant tooth decay. Switch over to sugar free gum or candy and drink water throughout the day. Make sure to schedule an appointment with your dentist to speak more about your xerostomia's causes, treatment and oral healthcare plan. Recommendation: try this over the counter Biotene mouth wash
3) DRINK DRINK DRINK | After you have your sweets, drink lots of water to help flush it out and neutralize your saliva's pH.
4) STICKY IS ICKY | There are sweets, and then there are sticky sticky bad sweets. This goes back to exposure, if you eat a sticky sugar, it'll stick to your tooth longer thereby prolonging the exposure to sugar and acids. Sticky candy like gummy bears is worse than something that doesn't stick like chocolate. If you absolutely love your Sour Patch Kids and can't live without them then brush your teeth and floss afterwards to get the sticky candy off of your teeth faster.
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