As a Florida dentist, we see a lot of tooth damage because of sugar consumption. It’s nothing to be ashamed about – sugar is a delicious addition. It’s also played a significant part in many places’ history. The New York Times mentions that sugar transformed both the tastes of Europe and the economies of the Caribbean colonies it grew on. Today, sugar’s so readily available that you often get it in things that don’t need it. The trouble with having it in everything is that you slowly become dependent on it. This article hopes to help you understand sugar addiction’s creeping presence and help you figure out if you have it and what to do about it.
What is Sugar Addiction?
The American Psychological Association defines addiction as behavior that leads to pleasure, but eventually changes your behavior so that you can’t control your need for that pleasure. When you think about sugar, it’s very rarely in the context of it being an addictive substance. Most of us see addiction as something you’d associate with hard drugs, like alcohol or cigarettes. Many a dentist in Florida doesn’t like to use the term “sugar addiction” because they don’t think it’s an apt description for the dependence.
However, a paper in the journal Frontiers in Psychology entitled Sugar Addiction: From Evolution to Revolution concludes that “addiction” may indeed be the right term. Researchers found that the response to sugar dependence in rats was similar to people who used opiates. Withdrawal symptoms were also identical. Sugar addiction, or sugar dependence (if you prefer that term), is a real problem. You need to ask yourself – are you dependent on or addicted to sugar consumption?
What Symptoms do Sugar Addicts Display?
One of the first steps that all recovery programs rely on is admitting you have a problem. Many of us who are already addicted to this insidious substance don’t know we have a problem, so you might deny it. Society has normalized eating sugar so much that no one thinks that eating a lot can be addictive. If you want to discover if you’re addicted, a few telltale signs might apply to you:
- You start off consuming one treat and end up eating the entire bag. Sugar addiction is hard to catch because it just feels like binge-eating in front of the TV. You just stick something sweet in your mouth and continue doing so until the bag’s empty.
- Maybe you rationalize your consumption. You can have just one more sweet. Today has been a rough day, so you deserve it. These platitudes are a sign that you have an addiction, but you want to make it into a logical choice to spoil yourself.
- You change your schedule to get more sugar during your daily routine. This change can be as subtle as adding a donut or a sweet pastry to your coffee break. Going out of your way to add sugar to your daily diet is a good sign that you’re starting to grow dependent on it, and you need a fix during the day.
- You get antsy when you don’t get your sugary snacks. One of the most typical sugar dependence signs is when you start getting cranky because you don’t get your sugar on time. If you stop eating sugar entirely for a few days and notice a change in your mood and attitude, you could be addicted.
If this sort of behavior is something you’ve seen in yourself, you’re probably addicted to sugar. Sugar can have severe effects on your entire body chemistry. As a dentist in Florida, however, the impact we’ve seen most in most of our clients is the impact that sugar has on their teeth.
Sugar and Your Teeth
If you’re a regular visitor to our blog, you’ll know what we’re going to cover in this section already. Sugar’s bad for teeth. While this is the prevailing wisdom, many patients don’t understand WHY sugar is terrible for their teeth. Within your mouth exists mostly benign bacteria. They live on your teeth and enjoy consuming anything left over after a meal. These leftovers could be chunks of bread, or meat, or even sugar, too small for your eyes to see. These particles stick around on your teeth after eating if you don’t brush and floss after every meal. The bacteria are drawn to those morsels and start digesting them right there on your teeth.
This action is the start of a chain of problems. The bacteria produce acid to digest the morsels remaining on your teeth. That acid tends to attack your enamel, making the tooth weaker and eventually forming holes in them. These holes are what we know as cavities. Why is sugar such a big deal when these bacteria eat anything that’s left over from a meal? Because they are VERY fond of sugar. Sugar’s very presence makes these bacteria super-aggressive with their digestion with leads to them attacking your teeth. Brushing your teeth can prevent this problem, but you should also consider lowering your sugar intake.
Lowering your Sugar Intake
Dealing with sugar dependence starts with you. Cutting it out cold-turkey is one of the most drastic measures that you can take. Not everyone has that kind of willpower, unfortunately. For those of us who need to wean ourselves off the dependence on sugar, we can try a few things:
- Read Nutritional Information: One of your best friends in fighting back against sugar is reading the information packets on the stuff you consume. It’ll let you know which snacks and foods you buy have a lot of sugar in them. If you see something that has a significant amount of sugar (like five, ten, or even twenty grams), you should avoid it.
- Stop Buying Large Bags: One of the things you’ll notice when you start reading that nutritional information insert at the back of your snack bags is that they mention the “serving size” or the “Number of Servings” in one pack. Serving sizes aren’t just for people trying to lose weight. These are supposed to help with maintaining your recommended daily values for any particular part of your diet. The NHS mentions that they’re just rough targets and aren’t exact numbers. However, those recommended values are calculated by serving. If you get a large bag, it’s easy to go through the whole thing and ignore the serving size. This splurging will just add to your sugar dependence.
Take Care of Your Teeth
Your teeth are with you for life. Taking care of them is less of a suggestion and more of a necessity. Although we may make it seem as though cavities happen overnight, in reality, they may take years, even decades. Each day is a constant battle to save your teeth from potential damage. That’s why sugar addiction is such a creeping threat. You don’t feel the bacteria eating away at your teeth. But one day, you wake up, and there’s a cavity. At Anderson Dental, we’re used to dealing with cavities, even those not caused by sugar addiction. If you’ve got cavities, or just want to see what one of our checkups are like, call us today. We’ll show you what real family dentistry feels like.