Sugar and Dental Decline

by Dr Rachel Hall B.Ch.D (Uni Leeds), LDSRCS(Eng), MACNEM, Dental Surgeon, Brisbane, Australia

I graduated from dental school having been told that due to advances in preventive care most of my career would be spent replacing failed fillings, doing routine maintenance and cosmetic work as the need to treat dental decay or perform root canal treatments and extractions would be greatly reduced. However, 20 years later I find that I am performing more extractions than ever before, doing more and more root canal procedures and dealing with rampant dental decay and gum disease in all ages. Anecdotally I feel that dental disease is actually on the increase and appears to be more widespread, severe and aggressive. Dental decay rates in children in Australia have increased progressively since the 1990s according to a study by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (1,2). It is well documented that poor socio-economic status and poor oral health are linked, and the statistics do speak for themselves (3). However, it is not just the financially disadvantaged who are presenting with increased prevalence of dental problems, it is happening across all levels of income and background.
Why is this? We all know that sugar consumption is linked to dental decay (4,5,6,7,8).

But what isn’t so obvious is how much our sugar consumption has increased in the last 50 years; over this period sugar consumption has tripled worldwide, mainly as a result of it being added to soft drinks and cheap processed foods (9).  However, the issue is not merely about “hidden” sugar but people living in a way that means they are eating carbohydrate rich meals, sugar laden snacks, biscuits, sweets and chocolates, drinking soft drinks full of sugar and caffeine or having excess fruit and fruit juices and smoothies which are nothing more than concentrated sugar under the guise of a healthy choice. Our waistlines are expanding while at the same time the incidence of heart disease, diabetes and dental decay continues to soar.

While excess sugar is thought to be a key cause of the obesity epidemic, obesity itself is not the root cause of disease but its presences a marker for metabolic damage and changes that lead to heart disease and diabetes. Metabolic damage, oxidative stress and systemic chronic illness also impact on oral health. Sugar is so harmful to health that there are calls for it to be controlled and taxed in the same way as tobacco and alcohol (10,11,12)..  Research indicates that sugar indirectly contributes to 35 million deaths a year worldwide, as there appear to be links to the massive rise in diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes since we began eating more sugar. The health effects of excess sugar consumption are similar to those of alcohol 13,14,15).

For the first time in human history, non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes, pose a greater health burden worldwide than infectious disease (16). While alcohol, tobacco and diet are all targeted as risk factors for these diseases by policymakers, doctors are apparently calling for attention to be turned towards the dangers of excess sugar consumption. Sugar provides “empty calories”, and a growing body of evidence suggests that fructose (one component of table sugar) can trigger processes that lead to liver toxicity and a host of other chronic diseases (17,18).

While sugar was only available as fruit and honey at certain times of the year to our ancestors, it is now present in nearly all processed foods. In some parts of the world people are consuming more than 500 calories worth of sugar per day (19,20,21).

There is growing evidence that excess sugar has an effect on human health beyond simply adding calories and can cause many of the same problems as alcohol, including high blood pressure, high blood fats, insulin resistance and diabetes (22).

The economic and human costs of these diseases place excess consumption of sugar in the same category as smoking and drinking and like tobacco and alcohol, sugar acts on the brain to encourage dependence (22,23,24,25,26). Specifically, it interferes with the workings of a hormone called ghrelin (which signals hunger to the brain) and it also affects the action of other important compounds (27).

Oral health is determined by various factors including diet, stress and the use of alcohol or tobacco. In ‘The World Oral Health Report’ published by WHO, it is stated that. “The rapidly changing (oral) disease patterns throughout the world are closely linked to changing lifestyles which include diets rich in sugars, widespread use of tobacco and increased consumption of alcohol” (28).

If we are to tackle not only the decline in oral health but the overall health of the population, then it makes sense that we address our level of sugar consumption, but at the same time we must surely stop and observe the way in which we are living. Something has gone drastically wrong when despite our remarkable medical advances and vast knowledge of the body, nutrition and illness and disease, the statistics show that we are fighting a losing battle as the prevalence of heart disease, diabetes and cancer continue to rise.

Perhaps we should be asking ourselves, why are we eating so much sugar? What are we getting from it? Why do we need the kick or boost it provides? How have we been living throughout the day that leads us to be depleted and seeking sugar? Of course, it can be confronting to ask these questions and to really take responsibility for our daily choices. Like the fact that we eat sugar because we are exhausted, stressed or seeking comfort. Or we are seeking a moment of pleasure, a quick buzz, and a high via a sugar rush that gets our nervous system revved up and out of balance. Or we are desperate to numb the way we feel inside and avoid dealing with life. Or we do not feel alive enough just as we are without altering our brain and body chemistry with foods. All of these and more are possible explanations for our rising sugar consumption that we tend to ignore and instead keep pouring it in, in the mistaken belief that we just like it.

What if there was a way to live that meant we could live from what is naturally inside by simply connecting to the “real you”, a real you that once experienced, you would never want to dull, compromise or alter in any way? The workshops, talks and books of Serge Benhayon and the esoteric wisdom present that we are all equally love and by connecting to and living that love the natural inner balance and harmony of the body and the real you can be restored. Is it possible then that if we were to live life in this way that our need to consume vast amounts of sugar would simply drop away and our health and oral health would improve as a consequence?

To this I would simply have to answer, ‘yes, of course’, for I have witnessed it first hand for my part in not only the way I live but also in those associated with Universal Medicine, the practitioners of esoteric modalities and in my own dental patients who have then gone on to implement more self-caring lifestyle choices and practices into their everyday living.

1 http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-08-03/dental-reform-urgently-needed2c-say-experts/2823150  rise of dental decay in children

2 http://www.hica.com.au/health-insurance-news/tooth-decay-on-the-rise-among-australian-children

http://www.arcpoh.adelaide.edu.au/publications/report/research/pdf_files/rr9_social_determinants.pdf dental health and wealth

4http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1046/j..2003.com122.x/abstract;jsessionid=E9E34376783A62269828CA3E27FC710F.d03t02 WHO lifestyle and oral health

5 http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(83)91696-3/abstract sugar dental decay

6 http://www.ajcn.org/content/78/4/881S.full dental caries and sugar

7 http://jdr.sagepub.com/content/67/11/1422.short dental decay and sugar intake

8 http://www.jdentaled.org/content/65/10/1017.short sugar consumption

9 http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/jun/11/why-our-food-is-making-us-fat

10 http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/240115.php sugar tax 2012

11 http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/145549.php sugar tax 2009

12 http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/chew-the-fat-on-a-sugar-tax-to-trim-waistlines-20120719-22cxw.html

13 http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v482/n7383/full/482027a.html nature toxic truth about sugar

14 http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/241052.php sugar global health

15 http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120201135312.htm sugar global health

16 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-14970547 WHO non-communicable disease

17 http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1983542,00.html sugar and cardiovascular disease

18 http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/106/4/523.full sugar health and cardiovascular disease

19 http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/242328.php too much sugar

20 http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/244264.php hidden sugar

21 http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/mar/02/sugar-addiction-children-big-food-fat?INTCMP=SRCH

22 http://www.connectwell.biz/pdf/comment_truth_about_sugar.pdf

23 http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/246841.php Oral health and economy

24 http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/200916.php Oral health and systemic disease

25 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2235907/ sugar addiction

26 http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/241133.php sugar regulation

27 http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/78/4/834S.full  sugar neurological affects

28 http://www.who.int/oral_health/media/en/orh_report03_en.pdf oral health WHO

238 thoughts on “Sugar and Dental Decline

  1. It is scary to see what sugar is in. When I go to the supermarket and look at the back of a packet – it continues to surprise me how much of an additive it is. I have a toddler – so from very young sugar is snuck into food and drinks and packaged as healthy. It has called me to be much more aware and responsible of what I eat.

  2. In the 60’s as a child sugar was a luxury, we ate fresh food that was seasonal and on special occasions we had a desert with our meal and occasionally a slice of cake. Nowadays the shelves are stacked with convenience foods, and sugar is in many of them, and it has also become a cheap commodity, and as a result we are now all hooked on sugar to give us a pick-me-up during the day, no wonder dentists are still doing fillings and extractions, and will continue to do so until we realise that we don’t actually need the sugar, we need the connection to ourselves.

  3. Stopping and honestly observing how we are living, enables us to realise the patterns we go into when we separate from our inner knowing and end up disregarding ourselves in settling for a lesser way of being. In re-establishing our inner connection, we are able to discern the truth of how something affects our body and how much the body responds when we start being more caring and gentle, with no need to reach for anything outside ourselves.

  4. Even though this was written 5 years ago, this topic is even more topical than it was then. There is a lot more evidence now available than ever before on the damage that over consumption of sugar is having on our bodies. But Rachel asks a very important question here, beyond the sugar is addictive, which it is. But why are we having, if not needing to have the amount of sugar we are consuming? When we begin to explore this topic honestly with ourselves and without critique we begin to unpack to reasons why we need the level of stimulation that sugar can provide. We see very clearly how it affects children, there is no reason why it affects adults any differently.

  5. Yes instead of trying to stop eating things that are bad for us it is better to look at the part of us that craves foods that are bad for us. Let us take a look at the logic of eating foods that are actually harming our body at every level, like sugar, because really there is none. We don’t need or use sugar and it is actually harming our body, so there is no reason for us to eat it from a logical point of view. It makes sense that there is a lack inside of us that makes us feel like covering the lack up with foods like sugar. But isn’t it more efficient to heal ourselves by starting to love ourselves again for who we are. The need for sugar will slowly fall away and there is no need to diet or be better because when we live true to ourselves that all takes care for itself.

  6. “If we are to tackle not only the decline in oral health but the overall health of the population, then it makes sense that we address our level of sugar consumption, but at the same time we must surely stop and observe the way in which we are living.” I agree and it will be interesting to see how the results of the newly imposed sugar tax in the UK ( six years on from this article) pans out. However, as you say, it is also about how we are living, and this appears to be getting more extreme as the years go on.

  7. The truth and harms of our ways of living are evidently well known and documented. Tobacco, drugs, sugar, fats, poor exercise etc are known to have negative effects on us. Yet we knowingly keep choosing to abuse ourselves. It shows there is more going on than just cause we have a sweet tooth or need our nicotine rush.

  8. What also amazes me is the exorbitant number of sugar alternatives that are on the market today. It is almost like we just cannot do without our sweet energy boast and not question the fact that the need for it in the first place may be a sign of ill health in the first place.

  9. It is great to read an article which puts sugar under the microscope and reveals the true cost to our health and wellbeing of consuming this addictive and very harmful substance. I often wonder what the dental as well as general health of our young people of today will be like by the time there are in their thirties? my feelings is we will see them burdened with many more ill health conditions resulting from their sugar consumption during their younger years.

  10. The less we fight the dis-ease in our body or numb the discomfort we feel with sugar, and start to choose to honestly look at our way of living and lifestyle choices the more we understand why we are draining and exhausting ourselves. Through deepening our connection and relationship with ourselves it is possible to establish a quality and way of being that is naturally self-energising.

  11. Thank you Rachel for exposing the ills of sugar and its impact on our bodies and dental health. I’ve always felt that daily brushing of teeth, regular dental health checks and seeing a hygienist was not enough, we also have to reduce our sugar intake. To bombard our mouths with constant stimulation and over sugary foods can’t be good for the oral environment. Learning about the true nature of sugar and the harm it causes is foundational to changing our behaviour.

  12. Rachel this is a brilliant article exposing the true harm of sugar on the body. Unfortunately many wait until it is too late before they reduce or stop the intake of sugar into their diets, if people began to address a sensible approach and began to eliminate or reduce their intake of sugar, I am sure we would see a decline in these statistics and dental decay, for if we don’t we are headed for even more alarming statistics.

  13. Rachel you mentioned that the sugar consumption has tripled over the last 3 years, as a child 50 years ago I was brought up on fresh vegetables and meat and fish, there was no modern technology, of the likes of microwaves, and we all sat down as a family and ate at the same time, there were few treats, and pocket money only bought a handful of sweets. Parents are under a great deal of pressure with children wanting soft drinks or sweets everyday, it is not surprising that there is an increase in dental decay, as parents we need to learn to say no, and also educate our children to take more responsibility too.

  14. Sugar is not fit for human consumption and strips the body of vital minerals, calcium being one of them. Small children are given soft drinks in their bottle to pacify them and tooth decay is through the roof. Is it time we addressed our addiction to sweetness and what is behind it?

    1. Put as plainly as this Gabriele, we would never pollute our children’s bodies with soft drinks. The practice of pacifying children with not just soft drinks but all things sugary is common. When parents feel needy or exhausted they turn to sugar or caffeine, the habit already formed in themselves, is passed on to their children.

  15. It’s very interesting how sugar seems to have earned this undisputable place in our diets and we think sweets are reward and there’s this notion of entitlement when it comes to eating as much of it and hardly anyone dares to ask themselves these awkward questions that you are asking here – and that, despite everything that the research and our own life experience has shown us. It does feel like a drug, doesn’t it?

  16. Sugar is indeed a drug and we are slowly waking up to it’s impacts. I’m interested in what you share and offer here of your experiences Rachel and in particular when you note ‘While excess sugar is thought to be a key cause of the obesity epidemic, obesity itself is not the root cause of disease but its presence is a marker for metabolic damage and changes that lead to heart disease and diabetes.’ … it highlights that we can so easily get caught in fighting the effects (obesity) while ignoring the underlying causes and indeed how we in fact live so that we ‘need’ and or ‘crave’ sugar.

  17. The effects of sugar are quite plain to see yet as a whole, society chooses to ignore them. The question is, why are we choosing to poison ourselves?

  18. Thank you Rachel, for providing the science behind sugar and its impact on us. What I feel strongly reading this article is that we’ve been using sugar as our accepted drug of choice, as a prop and a way to avoid looking at how we in fact live and the impact of those choices on our bodies; we use sugar to hide the impact of our life choices as it keeps us racy and disconnected from our bodies, from how we are and distracts us from actually being fully present in ourselves and our lives. I know from experience that when I eat a lot of sugar I am less focused, distracted and find it hard to apply myself, as well as being giddy and not fully with myself – it’s a way for me to stay aloof and disconnected from myself and those around me, and as I address this increasingly in my life I am understanding that sugar is a crutch and one that needs to go.

    1. I agree Monica. I have several fruit trees in my garden and this year there have been huge amounts of plums. Normally I eat very little fruit and have been free of sugar for some time but I have noticed that when I succumb to eating a few plums it changes the quality of my energy and overall I get more tired and slightly irritable.

  19. Posing the question of why we eat sugar is very exposing of the quality in which we choose to live on a daily basis and the stress levels that are not being addressed. Hardly surprising that exhaustion is now prevalent worldwide with the amount of sugar consumption on the rise.
    “Like the fact that we eat sugar because we are exhausted, stressed or seeking comfort. Or we are seeking a moment of pleasure, a quick buzz, and a high via a sugar rush that gets our nervous system revved up and out of balance. Or we are desperate to numb the way we feel inside and avoid dealing with life. Or we do not feel alive enough just as we are without altering our brain and body chemistry with foods”.

  20. The statistics that indicate that sugar indirectly contributes to 35 million deaths per year is beyond staggering. It is ridiculous in light of this that a sugar tax has still not been introduced, especially as the costs associated with the treatment and care before death would be equally jaw dropping in considering it’s impact on the economy. It is crazy that we willingly consume something en mass that can be so detrimental to our health and then look to medicine to make better the physical fallout of our irresponsibility.

  21. We all seem to be quite aware of the physiological effect our addiction to excess sugar consumption is having on our bodies and how this is compromising our health, but yet don’t seem to be waking up to the fact that we as a society really need to turn these debilitating stats around – for the burden on our health systems is significant and if we are honest, in many ways preventable.

  22. Great blog Rachel, we often feel that by eliminating alcohol is beneficial to our health, yet I don’t think we have associated that sugar is really in the same league as alcohol as far as our health is concerned, it is always the ‘go to’ food when we feel down or exhausted and your blog really brings home how we need to look at how we are living, and how harmful sugar is to our health.

  23. There is no doubt we have to address the corporate push to add sugar to everything by legislative means now because we have been unable to do it voluntarily. Food manufacturers are giving people what they are calling for which is a ‘sweetened’ life but this ‘sweetened’ life is contributing to chronic disease in their bodies.
    For our part we need to take a step back and ask ourselves what purpose sugar serves in our lives, what behaviour it feeds, what that behaviour is masking and why we don’t want to feel what we are feeling. These are important questions if we want to understand why we want sugar and then cut the demand so there is no call for supply. We become economists!

  24. Fantastic article exposing the rot of sugar and asking us to look beyond blame (sugar industry etc.) and consider why we’re looking for sugar so much. Yes there is a great supply but there is also a demand and the questions posed here about how we are living such that sugar is our crutch are telling points for all of us to consider. In how we live we need sugar, and we convince ourselves we like it, rather than be honest about our need and how that need is destroying our bodies – a rather crazy proposition when you look at it. The question is how honest are we willing to be about how we live.

  25. I used to buy smoothies occasionally thinking they were a healthy option. I even went through a phase of making my own, but ‘out of the blue’ I just stopped… something didn’t feel right in my body… how we can get misled in the outer investing in pictures, beliefs and ideals when we do not listen to our body and what it is communicating with us.

  26. Sugar is like a drug, it has an alluring nature, and all products that have sugar in them are sold to appeal in one way – and just before eating the sugar do we stop and ask ourselves “What am I really feeling?”. Its hard to do at first because our will is so out of control and just wants its way, but eventually the body is loud enough that honesty becomes our friend.

  27. I’m not aware of any health benefits of consuming sugar so not only is it ’empty calories’, which to be honest makes it sound pretty innocuous, but it is also pro-inflammatory and being more widely accepted as the precursor to many of the illnesses and diseases that are so common in our society today – heart disease and liver disease to name but two. Less commonly understood and acknowledged is its effect on mental health.
    My own experience is that of depression, which I can now categorically state was a direct result of consuming large quantities of sugar. As I started to reduce it and eventually cut it out entirely, I became more aware of the sensitivity of my body to other types of sugar eg. fructose in fruit, carbs in starchy veg etc., in that if I ate them, the next day or later the same day, my mood would plummet into a black hole and the despair would return.
    I now live a pretty much sugar and other carb-free life and my mood is really steady. The only time it’s not is if I make a not so great choice and eat something carby, but the true miracle here for me is that I now value myself and my steadiness and joy so much that the consequences of having a short burst of sweet taste in my mouth is simply not worth it.

  28. To understand that the health effects from sugar consumption are similar to that of alcohol consumption really highlights just how dangerous sugar is to our health and yet it is not seen or treated in the same way as other drugs like alcohol.

  29. This is a great expose how much we have allowed sugar to dominate our diet and how little we care to know the consequences it entails.

  30. There can be no doubt about it – sugar is a public health menace of the most noxious kind. The sooner it is eradicated from our lives the better – but that is a choice only we can make as individuals, for we are the ones creating the demand that fosters the supply.

  31. When I chose to cut out sugar from my diet a few years ago, I was amazed at how many foods had sugar added. Almost all cooked meat and uncooked bacon has sugar added to it. Why does bacon or chicken need sugar adding to it? I soon realised that I could only buy fresh vegetables and meat and fish, anything that had been processed in any way would have some form of sugar and SALT added to it. Sugar and salt are poisons in our bodies and adding them to all foods is a major factor in why our health as a species is plummeting.

    1. So true Doug, I am starting to realise that, without cutting out the subtle sugars and salts, the relationship with those two particular stimulants, continues. The relationship is more subtle, therefore easier to ignore but there is an underlying relationship – dare I say it – the addiction to the stimulation is still there.

      1. Yes the saying “moderation in all things” is one of the biggest whoppers ever told and has been adopted by humanity without so much as asking could this be untrue?

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