The best ways to cut down on tooth decay

WASHINGTON — Americans get a lot of cavities, and 92 percent of adults have at least one filling.

We’re told to brush and floss, but we also need to watch what we eat. All the sugar in a typical American diet is destroying our smiles, British researchers say.

They went through dental records from around the world, and found that the level of tooth decay is highest in countries with the most sugar in their diets. Fruit juice and power drinks are among the biggest culprits.

“Basically, anything this high in sugar will obviously correlate to high rates of decay,” says Dr. Bhavana Mistry with Smilez Dental Care in Rockville.

Some poor countries with low sugar intake and limited access to dental care had far fewer rates of cavities than Americans. The British study — published in the BMC Public Health journal — also cited data from Japan, where tooth decay plummeted during and shortly after World War II, when there was literally no access to sugar.

Mistry explains that oral bacteria feeds on the sugar, which produces acid- containing plaque that can destroy tooth enamel and cause cavities.

Brushing and flossing are essential to good dental hygiene, but the best way to cut the risk of damage is to rinse with plain water after eating sugary foods. Brushing alone is not the answer because those acids can still linger. In contrast, swishing water around the mouth neutralizes the acids and cuts the risk of decay.

Mistry says she also urges her patients — and her own teenage daughters — to cut back on sugar. The British researchers suggest you limit sugars to no more than five percent of daily calories, a goal she believes is difficult for most people to attain.

But moderation is key, and using a fluoride toothpaste is important. “Sometimes it’s the simplest solutions that can help cure the problem,” Mistry says.

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