Sugar is not just bad for your teeth but may also harm you from your brain to your waistline

Sugar is bad for your teeth.  We all know that.  So cliche but is it?  Recent research urges us to rethink our consumption of sugar, not just for the sake of our oral health but also our overall health.

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It may seem as though society is battling the obesity epidemic with all the attention on healthy lifestyle, diet and exercise; however, by 2019 overweight and obese adults will outnumber those with a normal weight in half of the provinces in Canada.  Adults are not the only ones who are caught in the obesity epidemic; it is now even seen in babies who are only six months old.  Experts have begun questioning the theory that all calories are created equally and now believe that some may be worse than others. The main contributor to obesity in last decades has shifted from just focusing on fat; as we usually  believe, to sugar which may actually be more of a culprit!

Why is sugar bad for you?

Sugar has been blamed for its role in the obesity epidemic.  It may also be related to many other health conditions in modern society like heart disease, diabetes and even Alzheimer’s and has been called a toxin and poison by some scientists. Many try to avoid sugar but even with good attempts it is hard to avoid it as more than 80% of food items sold in stores have added sugar or high-fructose corn syrup.   It is ubiquitous and is added to almost everything, even with food one hasn’t thought about.  One tablespoon of ketchup can contain a tablespoon of sugar and this is common for many unsuspecting sauces.  As people turn their attention t to fat content, many “low fat” and seemingly healthy products, many of which are targeted for children, contain more sugar to make them more palatable.

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Here is a table that highlights the astonishing amount of sugar in select food items.   It shows how many grams of sugar they each contain and how many sugar cubes that translates into.

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Another interesting example provided by one expert was when he compared eating a piece of white bread as equivalent to a pack of skittles.  Another big source of sugar for children is honey, fruit juices and sweeteners even if they are flagged as “healthier options.”  Take a look at this website, http://www.cbc.ca/fifth/sugarinthekitchen/ it has an easy grams to teaspoons conversion set up where you can check how many teaspoons are in food items when it only lists the grams of sugar on the packaging.

How addicted we are to sugar?

Statistics from 2004 showed that Canadians consumed 26 teaspoons of sugar a day, which accounts for over 21% of the daily caloric intake.  The average Canadian eats 88 pounds of sugar a year.  What’s even more shocking is the average nine year old boy consumes 123 pounds of sugar and average teen male consumes 138 pounds a year.  One of the items that contributes most to this high level of sugar is soft drinks.

How we can cut down the amount of sugar consumption?

In hopes of gaining some control over sugar consumption, the World Health Organization and the Childhood Obesity Foundation are proposing a daily recommended sugar intake limited to 5% of total daily caloric intake.   Choose fruits and veggies which may be high in sugar but are also high in fibre that way they are being digested slowly allowing the body to use up stored energy and ward off persistent hunger.  For more ways to adopt a low sugar diet, try these suggestions from Health Canada.  http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/food-guide-aliment/maintain-adopt/limit-eng.php

Copyright 2014 The Children’s Oral Care Centre

How long 2 minutes really is when you are 2-years-old?

Finding it hard to get your child to brush his or her teeth for the full 2 minutes the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends?  How can children tell time anyways?

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Infants as young as 1 month old have the ability to tell time.  The classic research was conducted by Brackbill and Fitzgerald in 1972.  In this study, infants were placed in a dark room where a light was switched on every 20 seconds for 4 second long.  After a period of conditioning or learning, their pupils constricted every 20 seconds for 4 seconds even if the light wasn’t turned on anymore.  However,  our internal clocks can often be skewed by other external stimuli.  Professor Sylvie Droit-Volet, at the Social and Cognitive Psychology Laboratory (Lapsco) at Blaise Pascal University,  found that emotions; for example, fear distorts time.  He found that fear makes the stimulus being perceived as longer than it really was.  Other psychologists also observed a similar tendency to overestimate time in 3-year-old children exposed to a threat.  But even without elaborate research, we all have experienced that time seems to fly when we are in love and the pot never boils when we are watching it boringly!
Young children often have difficulty with time perception, it is a skill they continue to learn as they age.  In general, a 5-year-old cannot count the passing of time without an adult helping them.  His counting usually does not keep pace with the actual seconds.  It is not until children turn 10 years old that they can count time regularly without input from an adult.  In the meantime, there are strategies that adults can use to help children know how long time really is, like the 2 minutes of tooth brushing time.  Research which looked at both visual signals and auditory signals found that children has better perception of time when they are presented with an auditory stimulus, ie.  it is easier for children to tell a beep which lasts for 5 seconds as supposed to a flash of light that lasts for the same amount of time.   In light of this knowledge and the fact that emotions change our sense of time, our suggestion to ensure children brush long enough and yet makes the “eternal” 2 minutes go by faster, is to make the experience as fun as possible for them.  Music is a great way to connect with children.  Here are a couple of dental songs that parents, siblings or the child himself can sing or listen to to help them know when it is time to stop brushing.

“Brush your teeth”

Sung to: “Row, Row, Row your Boat”

Brush, brush, brush your teeth.

At least two times a day.

Cleaning, cleaning, cleaning, cleaning.

Fighting tooth decay.

Rinse, rinse, rinse your teeth.

Every single day.

Swishing, swishing, swishing, swishing.

Fighting tooth decay.

Floss, floss, floss your teeth.

Every single day.

Gently, gently, gently, gently.

Whisking plaque away.

“Sparkle”

Sung to: “Twinkle, twinkle”

Sparkle, sparkle, little teeth.

Some above and some beneath.

Brush them all at every meal.

Clean and fresh they’ll always feel.

Sparkle, sparkle, little teeth.

Some above and some beneath.

Sparkle, sparkle, little teeth.

Some above and some beneath.

Brush them all at every meal.

Clean and fresh they’ll always feel.

Sparkle, sparkle, little teeth.

Some above and some beneath.

Floss them, floss them, in between.

Cavities will not be seen.

See your dentist twice a year.

You will grin from ear to ear.

Floss them, floss them,in between.

Cavities will not be seen.

Snacking, snacking, it’s okay.

Try it in the proper way.

Eat raw veggies, fruit and cheese.

They will make your mouth say “Please!”

Snacking, snacking, it’s okay.

Try it in the proper way.

If you don’t want to sing, here is a video from the Oregon Dental Association “Teach Me How to Brushy” sung to the tune of “Teach Me How to Dougie” that you can turn on and let it do all the work! http://www.buzzfeed.com/whitneyjefferson/teach-me-how-to-brushy

Practice these fun songs while brushing your children’s teeth.  Brushing time can also be bonding time with your kids!

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Copyright 2014 The Children’s Oral Care Centre