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Living in a sugar culture

July 1, 1993

Living in a sugar culture

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Naturally occurring bacteria in the mouth devours sugar, creating acids that attack tooth enamel. This can lead to decay, as well as a host of other problems, including gingivitis, according to a new report in General Dentistry, the Academy of General Dentistry’s clinical, peer-reviewed journal.

Living in a culture that moves as quickly as ours, it’s easy to bypass a nutritious diet in favor of a poor diet comprised of fast food and snacks high in sugar. The detrimental effects of this lifestyle are clear. Almost 18 percent of children between the ages of 2 and 4 have experienced tooth decay, and almost 80 percent of young people have had a cavity by age 17.

“We live in a high-stress society, and fast food offers a quick fix,” says Maria A. Smith, DMD, MAGD, spokesperson for the Academy, an organization of general dentists dedicated to continuing dental education.

She adds that an overabundance of sugar is not only detrimental to oral health, but also the rest of the body’s well being.

For example, the average 12-ounce can of soda contains nine teaspoons of sugar, and many manufacturers incorporate sugar into their foods to help ensure a return purchase. Today, the average person consumes 155 pounds of sugar a year, or 39 teaspoons a day.

It’s not only our culture that defines the amount of sugar we consume, but also a lack of education on how much sugar we consume every day—especially when it comes to children and the elderly. Dr. Smith says parents may believe they are doing right by their children feeding them processed fruit juice or raisins; however, products such as these are mostly sugar. Raisins and other dried foods are often high in sugar content. Processed foods also can be harmful because of the low nutrition and high sugar content. Substitute fresh fruits and vegetables for these products.

“People don’t realize how many high-content sugar products are out there,” Dr. Smith says. “Education is the key to creating a nutritious diet.” Visiting the dentist twice a year, says Dr. Smith, is a good way to maintain oral health and learn how to curb an excessive sugar intake. Additionally, eating an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables and carefully reading nutrition content labels can curb sugar intake,

The Academy of General Dentistry makes it easy to find a dentist by providing a toll-free referral service, 1-877-2X-A-YEAR (1-877-292-9327) where consumers can get the names, addresses and phone numbers of up to three general dentists in their area. For more information on this story and the Academy of General Dentistry, please visit the website, www.agd.org.

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