If you love sweet foods and you care about your teeth, you have something of a conundrum on your hands. Sugar isn't just your favorite food. It is also the favorite food of two harmful strains of oral bacteria, streptococcus mutans and streptococcus sobrinus. The more sugar you consume, the more food you provide these harmful bacteria with, which in turn increases your risk of tooth decay.
But how do you continue to enjoy sweet foods while caring for your teeth? You can't completely cut out sugar, but you can eat sugar in a healthier way.
1. Eat foods with a healthy sugar substitute
The reason that sugar is so bad for your teeth is that tooth decay-causing bacteria produce acids after they consume it. Those acids then damage your teeth. You can buy sweet foods from health food stores now that use healthy sugar substitutes like xylitol, sorbitol and malitol. These sugar substitutes are derivatives of natural sugar that oral bacteria cannot break down.
You can also buy these sugar substitutes and use them to make your own healthy sweet snacks like cakes and donuts.
2. Eat sweet fruits instead of sweet processed foods
Although fruit does contain sugar, the sugar in fruit is naturally occurring and is attached to the structure of the fruits. This means that the sugars in fruit take longer to digest than the sugars in processed foods. Processed foods contain the same sugars as fruits contain, but those sugars don't occur naturally in processed food. In processed food, the sugars are known as "free sugars".
Eating fruits with natural sugars, such as raspberries, apples, bananas and pears, is much healthier than eating processed foods with free sugars.
3. Eat naturally sweet vegetables
You can choose to eat naturally sweet vegetables too, such as:
- Sweet potato
Just as with fruit, the sugars in sweet vegetables take longer to digest than the sugars in processed foods.
4. Eat sweet fruits that are low in acidity
Acidity is also the enemy of your teeth. Acidity can be found in sweet drinks, like cola and lemonade. And natural fruits like oranges, lemons and tomatoes are acidic too. To protect your teeth while eating sweet fruits, choose fruits that are low in acidity like watermelons, bananas and coconuts.
5. Eat sweet foods that don't stick to your teeth
Sweet, sticky foods stick to your teeth and stay there for a while after you have eaten. Oral bacteria can then feed on those foods long after you have eaten. Avoid sweet sticky foods like jelly candies, toffee and dried fruits as much as you can.
You don't have to give up sweet processed foods like donuts and chocolate completely. But be sure to substitute those sweet foods with natural sweet foods when you can. Reducing your intake of processed sugars will also reduce your risk of suffering from tooth decay. For more information on sugar and your teeth, contact a dentist near you.