If there is one factor that will most dramatically impact your need for reconstructive dentistry, it’s your consumption of sugary foods on a daily basis. True, we need to be aware of the erosive power of acidic foods, but sugar is the primary reason why all of our advances in modern dentistry can’t prevent you from developing cavities on a regular basis.
But if you learn to control your sugar cravings, you may be able to significantly reduce your risk of tooth decay. Sugar feeds the oral bacteria in our mouths that secrete tooth-destroying acids, leading to cavities. If you’re constantly eating sugar, even good oral hygiene and regular dental visits aren’t always able to prevent cavities.
But if you can reduce your sugar cravings–and therefore consumption–maybe you can avoid needing as much reconstructive dentistry.
Eat Less Sugar
Sugar consumption is a vicious cycle. The more sugar you eat, the more you crave. And the more you crave, the more you’ll eat. At some point you have to break the cycle, and trying to avoid sugary foods is a good place to start.
In particular, watch out for foods that have a surprising amount of added sugars. New FDA labeling will require that foods show how much sugar has been added. Use this information to start choosing less sugary alternatives. Note: some of these foods might not taste as good at first because your taste buds have been acclimated to high levels of added sugars. You can counter this by doing more cooking, which will allow you to make naturally flavorful foods with less added sugar — and lower salt and higher nutrition.
Get Good Sleep
Good sleep is a great strategy for controlling your sugar cravings. A rested body naturally has more energy, so you won’t find yourself dragging through your day, trying to perk yourself up with some sugary coffee drink from Starbucks or a chocolate bar.
And if you’re well rested, your conscious mind will be stronger and you’ll be less at the mercy of your cravings. You’ll be better able to make healthy choices.
Dehydration is a serious threat to your body’s health, so when you’re dehydrated the body tries many different strategies to help you get hydrated. Sure, you might feel thirsty, but you’ll also likely feel hungry. You may also get a sugar craving. Whatever your body has found in the past is most likely to get you to eat or drink something.
And there’s another benefit of being hydrated, too: it helps your body produce good saliva levels. Saliva is your body’s natural antibiotic and buffer: it helps keep bacteria and acid levels under control, reducing your risk of cavities.
We know: when you’re thinking about something sweet a jog around the block seems like the absolute opposite of what you want. But often it isn’t the sugar itself that your body is craving, it’s the endorphin jolt your body can get, the so-called sugar rush. Well, you can get a similar rush from exercise. Exercise can release endorphins in your brain, what they describe as a “runner’s high.” Next time you get a sugar craving, try doing some exercise. It doesn’t have to be a run, just something to elevate your heart rate and speed your breathing. Find an exercise that is rewarding for you, and figure out how much exercise it takes to trigger an endorphin release. It may be as little as ten minutes of intense exercise.
And if you want to get the full benefit of exercise, make sure your gum disease is under control.
Your body wants comfort food when it feels stressed. It’s likely that many of your sugar cravings stem from stressful situations or chronic stress levels. If you can figure out how to reduce your stress (exercise and better sleep are a good start!), then you’ll likely experience fewer cravings. As a side benefit, you’ll probably clench and grind your teeth less, so you’re less likely to need a dental crown for a chipped or cracked tooth.
A Dentist Who’s Concerned about Your Health
Your oral health and your overall health are closely linked. To ensure both are optimal, you should work with a Summerlin dentist who looks at the big picture, not just at your teeth.
To learn more about these close connections, please call (702) 873-0324 for an appointment at the office of Dr. James B. Polley.