Decay is related to sugar intake, but it’s much more complex than that.  Overall eating  frequency of carbohydrate intake (both sugar and complex carbs) is probably more important than sugar per se.  Many people are eating more than three meals a day, and “grazing” has even found support among physicians.  Some say that it even helps weight control.  Snacking is so common that even dentists are reluctant to condemn it.   Snacking in America is, for all purposes, endemic.   But it’s hard on your teeth.  And three meals a day are much  nicer relative to decay.   So are there any “healthy snacks”?  Not really.  Maybe raw vegetables.  Certainly not fruit–the decay causing bacteria don’t care where the sugar comes from, whether it’s frutose from fruit or sucrose from a Snicker’s bar.  And fighting snacking is like fighting the wind…snacking is promoted in every other television commercial and on every aisle   end at the supermarket.  But it can be done with discipline.  And then there are those drinks…

We just can’t drink a glass of water when we’re thirsty anymore.  It’s either a soda you get at the gas station mini mart, or, if you’re more sophisticated, you’re drinking some sort of ‘healthy’ sports drink, thinking that you need to replenish your salt content lost by sweating at the gym.  Ever looked on the label of your favorite sports drink?  If sugar’s not on the label, some sort of corn syrup is.  The real laugh is the “vitamin water” craze.  And there’s a bit of sugar there too.  And no, you probably don’t need the vitamins any more than you need the sugar.  Sodas, even diet sodas, while certainly high in sugar, are also high in acids.  Diet Cokes can actually clean dirty automotive battery terminals because of their high phosphoric acid content.  The acid not only aids decay, but directly dissolves enamel .  I have patients who have actually lost vertical dimension (the distance from your nose to your chin with your teeth together) from enamel loss from acidic drinks.  So should you swear off them?  You can have an occasional soda with a meal, but keep it occasional.  “With a meal” is important–when you have a soda with a meal, your saliva is flowing more, and it buffers the acid, keeping its damaging effects minimized.  Water, and milk are safest.  But remember to drink tap water; it has far fewer bacteria than bottled, and in most incorporated cites, has fluoride too, which strengthens your teeth.  But decay is even more complicated than this…we’ll explore the ‘infection’ concept next time.

Dr. Guy

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