For many families around the world, a trip to the dentist is a luxury they can’t afford.
This has led to a rise in oral health problems in children. Whereas cavities were a major concern 10 years ago, children now are facing complete tooth extraction due to decay.
Shockingly, some children in New Zealand even undergo dental surgery before they enter preschool. One three-year-old boy even had to have 11 rotting teeth extracted under general anesthesia.
And this is no isolated incident: in the region of Canterbury, 35% of 5-year-olds have been treated for decayed, extracted or filled teeth (1).
What Causes Tooth Decay?
One of the main causes of the rise in tooth decay is the high consumption rate of sugar across the world.
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Sugar feeds the bacteria living in the plaque on your teeth. The bacteria then creates an acid that attacks the enamel, the hard coating that protects your teeth. Once the enamel is broken, the bacteria quickly deteriorate your teeth (2).
Another contributing factor is the lack of oral hygiene in certain communities.
And yet, many children and adults continue to neglect their teeth.
The combination of insufficient brushing and a high intake of soda and sugary juices has caused this major public health crisis in New Zealand and throughout the world.
An American Epidemic
Sugar is added to most everything on the market in the United States.
Not only can it cause tooth decay, but it can also cause metabolic disorders, diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease (3).
The recommended amount of sugar for an adult woman is 6 teaspoons while 9 teaspoons are recommended for men. This is equivalent to 100 calories and 150 calories, respectively. A single can of soda contains about 132.5 calories derived from sugar. This means that consuming one soda is equivalent to drinking 1/3 cup (15 teaspoons) of sugar (4).
Shockingly, Americans today consume about 22 teaspoons of sugar on a daily basis. That is almost 4 times the recommended amount for women and about 2 ½ times for men.
Health Dangers Of Soda
Soda and processed fruit juices not only contain high levels of sugar and other sweeteners, they’re also acidic.
Drinking these beverages can severely erode tooth enamel, making teeth susceptible to damage and decay.
Other causes of tooth decay include (5):
- Lack of saliva production
- GERD and acid reflux
- Binge drinking
- Vitamins, supplements, and oral medications
- Bruxism (tooth grinding)
- Poor oral care
Health Complications of High Sugar Intake
Eating large amounts of sugary foods not only puts your oral health at risk, but it also presents other serious complications.
In fact, the Laboratory of Physiology in Portugal published a review that states that diets high in sugar increase the incidence of insulin resistance and weight gain. In turn, this dramatically raises the risk of developing type 2 diabetes (6).
The Center for Disease Control warns that the incidence of childhood obesity is nearly three times what it was in 1980. Currently, 18% of American children and teens are obese (8). The agency advocates the urgent need for better nutrition education in schools and lists high sugar diets as one of the main causes of childhood obesity.
The agency advocates the urgent need for better nutritional education in schools and lists high sugar diets as one of the main causes of childhood obesity (9).
Childhood obesity is also linked to:
- High cholesterol
- Cardiovascular disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Insulin resistance
- Sleep apnea
- Joint problems
- Fatty liver disease, gallstones, and heartburn
- Low self-esteem
- Impaired social, physical, and emotional functioning
Being obese in childhood dramatically increases the risks of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and metabolic syndrome in adulthood.
How To Improve Oral Health
It’s important to brush your teeth first thing in the morning and floss and brush before bed. Instead of using toxic conventional toothpaste, make your own! You can try oil pulling while you’re in the shower to prevent bacterial overgrowth. It’s also important to visit the dentist regularly.
When it comes to diet, it’s best to avoid processed foods as much as possible, as these are often loaded with sweeteners, preservatives, and additives. Instead of drinking soda, switch to tea or fruit-infused water. Better yet, just drink plenty of water throughout the day!