In the UK at the moment, there is a lot of discussion about how much sugar affects people’s health. Dentists should surely be pleased about this development, as sugar is one of the leading causes of tooth decay and other oral hygiene problems. However, the focus at the moment is on sugar’s contribution to obesity.
Anything that improves the overall health of the UK can only be seen as a good thing, but organisations such as the British Dental Association (BDA) are warning experts and the media not to lose sight of the other dangers of sugar. There is a risk that, with all the talk of obesity, the risk of tooth decay from sugar consumption will be overlooked.
What the BDA is worried about is people with a particularly active lifestyle eating more sugary food, due to the fact that they will burn the calories off with exercise. While this may help them stave off obesity, it will have no effect on the harm they are subjecting their teeth to.
Graham Stokes, chair of the BDA, said: “While the current debate rightly focuses on the links between sugar and the nation’s expanding waistlines, we must not forget that sugar is the leading cause of tooth decay.”
Sugar increases the acidity of a person’s mouth, which erodes tooth enamel. This is a very painful process that can often only be fixed by drilling the tooth and filling it in, or extracting it altogether. Poor oral hygiene can also contribute to a number of other problems, such as gum disease.
Furthermore, tooth decay is a disease that disproportionately affects children, who are well-known for eating sweets whenever possible. Mr Stokes said: “Tooth decay – often involving several teeth – is the main reason why youngsters are admitted to hospital to have a general anaesthetic.
“Last year alone over 25,000 young people in England had a general anaesthetic to remove rotten teeth. This is a distressing experience for both children and their parents and is entirely preventable.”