“It is so sweet of you to do”, “ It was a sweet surprise”, you may have heard and used these expressions without a doubt. Ever noticed why we use “sweet” as a metaphor? Why isn’t it “salty”?
Sweet taste is associated with goodness. We always think a meal is completed when it ends with something sweet or every special occasion or festival has sweet-tasting foods as a major part of the celebration. The sense of sweet taste makes us happy and hence becomes an unavoidable part of our lives but as good as it makes us feel, it isn’t a healthy choice.
Earlier dental decay wasn’t common but due to our modern lifestyle and diet, cavities have widely increased and thus are a matter of concern since a young age. Processed sugars such as sucrose, maltose, etc. are a favourite for the devils in the mouth.
Right from our morning toothpaste, to our dairy creamers for tea and coffee to our last meal of the day, we consume sugars in various forms. Before we get talking about sugar substitutes, let’s discuss the effects of sugar on teeth.
Effect of Sugar on Your Health and Teeth
Sugar, as yummy as it is, can wreck your health or push you towards an unhealthy life. In the body, increased sugar levels make it prone to diseases like diabetes, increased weight, and other cardiovascular diseases.
On the teeth, processed sugar, which has become an integral part of most of the meals of the modern man, can destroy teeth to irreversible damages such as decay and cavities as well as gum problems. How? Let’s see.
How does Sugar cause Tooth Decay?
The bacteria of the oral cavity can easily form chain-like structures which form the bulk of the white layer called plaque, that deposits on our teeth. This leads to more space for more bacteria to stick. These bacteria use the sugars like sucrose, to form acids that weaken the enamel, which is the outer surface of the teeth. More the bacteria, the more acid, and more damage. Processed sugars have been observed to be the prime resource for the bacteria in the mouth. Hence, we need a solution to overcome this problem.
So, Should You Stop Consuming Sugar and switch to Sugar Substitutes?
Well, surely we can lessen the amounts of sugars in our diet but completely avoid them? Is it even possible? What a tasteless life that will be! However, sugars are not only present in our food but in chewing gums, toothpaste, etc. as well.
“The solution then?”, you ask. Well, when you can’t change things, you replace them. Substitution to the rescue! Healthy substitutes are the best way to change something in your life without changing much.
Sugar Substitutes? What are those?
Sugar substitutes are caloric or non-caloric, natural as well as artificially synthesized substances that can replace traditional sugars with no compromise on the taste.
Types of Sugar Substitutes
- Natural: These are extracted from plants. Like, Stevioside, thaumatins, monellins
- Synthetic: Aspartame, Saccharin, Sucralose, sugar alcohols
The ideal sugar substitute for the prevention of dental cavities needs to be non-cariogenic, which means, it should not let the bacteria form acids needed for the formation of decay.
- Xylitol: Reduces plaque formation and adherence of bacteria to teeth. Xylitol is widely used in sweets and other items in foreign countries.
- Sorbitol: It doesn’t completely prevent acidic formation by bacteria but is proven to reduce it.
- Other sugar alcohols are maltitol (reducing maltose) and lactitol.
- Acesulfame-K: It is widely used in making candies and other dry food mixes.
- Others are Steivioside, Alitame, Neotame, Saccharin, Aspartame.
Why Choose Sugar Substitutes?
- Sugar substitutes apart from being non-cariogenic, also increase salivation which plays a role in decreasing plaque build-up.
- Artificial sugar substitutes are sweeter than the traditionally processed sugars and hence need to be used in lesser quantities. Thus, even if they are caloric they do not contribute calories.
- Side effects with some of the above like Saccharin, Aspartame, etc. have been observed but none of the observed side effects were universal and their effect was negligible.
- Hence, the above sugar substitutes are also approved by the FDA, USA.
- Sugar substitutes are inexpensive too.
So, we hope you got to learn a little more about sugar and its effects and the substitutions available. Let’s try to minimize sugars and replace them with sugar substitutes so we can enjoy our delicious sweets without sharing with unwanted guests in the mouth.