As a provider of family dental care in West Linn, Dr. Roane provides his patients with the tools necessary to enjoy a healthy smile for a lifetime. In addition to brushing and flossing daily, the biggest step patients can take to improve their oral health is to eat a balanced diet. By eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, and less added sugars and carbohydrates, patients can lower their risk of tooth decay and gum disease by depriving plaque, the primary cause of cavities and disease, with the fuel it needs.
Plaque, a sticky biofilm comprised of harmful oral bacteria, clings to the surface of our teeth. Plaque uses the sugar we consume to produce harmful substances that slowly erode tooth enamel. When we eat diets with high amounts of sugar, we give plaque all the fuel if needs to cause serious havoc. When we eat a more balanced diet, we deprive plaque of what it needs to damage our teeth and gums.
So, while we’ve established the importance of eating a balanced diet and what it means when receiving family dental care in West Linn, it should also be noted that just because a food is healthy for you doesn’t mean it’s also good for your oral health.
What Makes a Food “Healthy”?
Many times patient believe that eating a balanced diet means only eating organic foods. Sure, eating food organically grown offers a number of positive benefits, but that as a criteria alone doesn’t necessarily mean what you’re eating is the best choice for your body.
A diet that features organic yogurt, honey, fruits, granola, and trail mix may seem like a healthy choice. You may even receive advice from a dietician that these types of natural foods make ideal choices for boosting immune systems, lowering cholesterol, and improving digestion. However, all of these things can be true, and yet regularly eating these types foods can serious wreck your oral health.
The same can be said for what we drink. Sure, we all know that soda, fruit juice, and sports drinks contain high levels of sugar. But replacing these beverages with organic juices, organic chocolate milk, tea with honey, etc. doesn’t change the fact that you’re still consuming sugar, even if it is organic.
It’s important to know that both processed and organic foods and drinks have the ability to contain just as much, if not more, sugar than what you should consume as part of a healthy, balanced diet.
Sugar Content May Surprise
Advertising has trained us to equate words like organic and natural with the word healthy. Unfortunately, that’s a misconception that could result in eating way more sugar than what many patients may assume.
For example, yogurt, even all natural brands, contains anywhere from 14 to 23 grams of sugar per serving. That equates to roughly 3 ½ to 7 ¼ teaspoons of sugar. Additionally, one tablespoon of honey averages 16 grams of sugar. By simply drizzling two to three tablespoons of honey onto your morning oats, yogurt, or bran cereal, you’re adding between eight to 12 teaspoons of sugar.
Unfortunately, organic food manufacturers do their own part to make it difficult to determine how much sugar the foods we eat contain. In addition to making packaging difficult to accurately read, many brands fail to even list sugar as an ingredient, rather referring to it as glucose instead. Many people don’t realize sugar can appear on an ingredient list under many different assumed names. Glucose, sucrose, and fructose are all different names that mean the same thing – sugar.
So, while eating a balanced diet plays a significant role in helping to reduce your risk for cavities and gum disease, don’t get lulled into a false sense of security just because you buy from the organic section of the grocery store. What you end up buying may contain just as much sugar as the junk food and processed brands you choose not to buy.