Sugar not only puts you at risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease, but it is also the direct cause of tooth decay for as much as 90% of American adults. Sugar is hidden in nearly all processed foods as an additive to enhance taste, so with high exposure to processed foods, sugary beverages, and sweet treats comes a high occurrence of cavities. Here’s how sugar causes tooth decay: Sugar reacts with the bacteria in your saliva to produce an acid that weakens tooth enamel; the tooth then becomes susceptible to decay.
The Sugar & Cavity Connection
Decades of research around the world has shown a direct correlation between sugar consumption and the occurrence of tooth decay. During Word War II, sugar was rationed in Japan, and as a result, tooth decay was “hugely reduced,” according to a study by University College London and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. After the war, sugar consumption rose again and so did the amount of tooth decay. By contrast, sugar is rarely consumed in Nigeria, and the occurrence of tooth decay there is equally rare: Only 2% of Nigerians have tooth decay. Compare that to the 80 to 90% of American adults who experience tooth decay, and it becomes obvious that our diets impact our tooth health.
Foods to Avoid for Healthy Teeth & Gums
Nearly all processed foods contain sugar, so it can be tricky to watch and limit your consumption of sugar. When in doubt, always opt for fresh food options in their natural form, such as fruits and vegetables, legumes, and lean cuts of meat. Avoid these foods and drinks to prevent tooth decay: candy; sugary baked goods; fruit juice; and sugary soft drinks like soda, lemonade and sweet tea.