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For general as well as mouth health it is always a good work towards reducing sugar consumption. Plants make sugar so it is found in more foods than we realise not just sweets and biscuits. We can tell whether something is sweet but we are really bad at working out how much sugar there is in a product. Everything ending in -ose should be considered a sugar, the white stuff in a bowl is sucrose but there is glucose, fructose, maltose and many more. The food manufacturers try and confuse us by talking about natural or added sugar once sugar is in your mouth the bacteria consuming the sugar is not able to read the packet it came from and just recognises it as a sugar. Many people like honey, the bacteria in your mouth do too! Unfortunately there are foods made specially for children saying "No added sugar" on the packet but the contents of the packet are 60% sugar! Raisins have commonly been recommended as a 'natural' safe snack, they are natures 'jelly tots', if you remove all the water from a grape (process) you end up with a brown, sticky, high sugar food. We have seen problems caused by people eating things like dates and dried apricots, they are nice and I am not saying do not eat them but recognise that they are full of sugar! It can be fun as an almost scientific experiment to reduce your sugar intake and then see how much sweeter everything tastes, raw carrot starts tasting sweet.
It is useful to know that 4.6 grams = 1 teaspoon when looking at sugar levels in food and drink.
Once food has been processed through any form of machine or factory it changes how our body deals with it usually in a negative way. Orange juice was considered good for you but has now fallen out of favour, a large glass could contain the juice from at least six oranges and I think that most of us would struggle to eat six oranges. Orange juice contains sugar and is also acidic two things that are harmful to teeth.
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Teeth are composed of calcium phosphate crystals creating a hard but brittle structure, enamel is the hardest biological material but its achilles heel is acid. Some of you may remember putting vinegar on egg shells during science lessons and watching it fizz. Our diets have changed, dentists used to recommend brushing straight after a meal but if we have consumed anything acidic it is now advisable to wait half an hour to an hour before brushing, this will allow the best mouthwash money cannot buy, your saliva to reduce the acidity created and remineralise and stabilise your tooth surface given time and if not overloaded it is an effective process developed over thousands of years of evolution. If you brush immediately after eating or drinking anything acidic the surface of the tooth has been softened by the acidity and microscopic amounts of tooth surface will be removed this will become noticeable if it happens regularly and can cause sensitivity.
The reason sugar damages teeth is that the bacteria in the mouth feed on it and as a by product produce acid that punches holes in teeth. Once the bacteria have broken through the outer surface they can safely hide inside quietly destroying the inside of the tooth until either you experience pain or part of the tooth caves in as it is no longer supported. Early attack of the surface of the tooth only can be stopped by reducing sugar intake and using a higher fluoride toothpaste (Duraphat) or mouthwash (FluoriGard) we call this arrested decay. We support the use of Fluoride in protecting teeth. The protective property of fluoride was discovered when they tried to work out why people living is some areas had stronger teeth, it was traced back to the well water they were drinking. Essentially fluoride can be viewed as naturally occurring in some mineral waters. I remember a Birmingham dentist telling me that they had a patient who would not rinse out with the mouth rinse provided ion the surgery as they had heard it had fluoride in it. The dentist asked to look at the bottle of mineral water the patient had brought in to use and it contained a much higher concentration of fluoride that the Birmingham tap water! Fluoride makes the surface of teeth more resistant to acid attack.