Imagine fluffy cotton candy, icing topped cupcakes, and ice cream sundaes dripping with caramel sauce. Like many people, you’ve got a sweet tooth. But don’t worry, we’re not here to try to talk you out of your after-dinner dessert.
There are plenty of sweets that don’t cover your teeth in sugar and the inevitable plaque that follows. Save some room for dessert with these goodies that won’t destroy your teeth:
What’s more American than baseball? That’s right, apple pie. Fruit is better for your teeth than many other sweets because the bacteria in your mouth have a sweet tooth too. However, after they enjoy dessert, they produce acid. These acids are strong enough to bore little holes in the enamel of your teeth, and these tiny holes can eventually become cavities.
Even apple pie has sugar, but most sweets are more damaging to your teeth than pie. Sticky caramel and chewy taffy lingers on your teeth longer than pie or crumbly cookies.
And as for fruit, dried fruit can be as dangerous for your teeth as taffy because it sticks to the teeth. Fruit juice and smoothies can masquerade as a healthy treat when really, the juicing process releases sugars that are usually bound up in fiber—making juices harder on your teeth.
The bottom line is to keep the fruit as whole as possible and try to stay away from sticky desserts. Pie anyone?
Dates n’ Raisins
Dried fruits are not that great for your teeth. But dates and raisins get to be exempt because they offer some amazing benefits for your teeth.
Dates are full of a compound called fluorine, which is related to fluoride. It can help repair demineralization (early stages of a cavity). When you make date-nut bread or throw a handful into your carrot cake recipe, you’re actually doing yourself, and your teeth, a favor.
Raisins add a sweetness to everything from your morning oatmeal to your favorite gooey raisin-filled cookies. Grapes are filled with phytochemicals, which inhibit the growth of bacteria in your mouth and keep sticky foods from lingering. That means red wine can actually help prevent decay.
Raisins have concentrated amounts of phytochemicals so they’re a great option for sweetness that can actually be good for you. Both dates and raisins provide fiber, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. Candy can’t compete with that.
Let Them Eat Cake
If you just can’t stay away from your favorite sweets and worry about the consequences to your teeth, make the switch to a sugar substitute. Sugar all by itself isn’t dangerous to your teeth—it’s the bacteria’s acid that causes the problem.
The best sugar substitutes are a derivative of sugar. Chemical processes leave behind sugar alcohols that become sorbitol, isomalt, malitol, and xylitol. The bacteria in the mouth can’t break down these substances, and that means no damaging acid and no cavities.
A specific type of sugar derivative, polyols, actually have antibacterial effects. Gum makers widely use Zylitol in sugarless chewing gum because it not only protects teeth by increasing saliva flow, but it also fights bacteria.
Go ahead and bake that cake! You can use xylitol and other sugar alcohol based substitutes in place of sugar cup for cup. You’ll get the same sweetness without the danger to your teeth. However, Xylitol does absorb more moisture than sugar so you may want to add more liquid to your recipes.
The Secret Weapon
Want to know the secret weapon in the sweet tooth arsenal? Good oral hygiene. This means you brush your teeth, floss your teeth, see your dentist, and eat less sugar.
After eating dessert, rinse your mouth thoroughly to wash away any lingering sugars that bacteria could feast on. Even better, brush your teeth. You don’t have to limit keeping your teeth clean to two minutes in the morning and at night. If you brush after satisfying your sweet tooth, you’ll effectively combat decay.
Flossing may not be your favorite habit, but after those delicious salted caramels, you want to make sure to clean every nook and cranny in your mouth. When you don’t floss, you skip about 40% of each tooth.
Research shows that regular visits to the dentist may mean different things for different people. Your teeth may need more frequent cleanings, especially if you love your treats. Ask your dentist how often you need a cleaning to keep your teeth at optimal health.
The Bottom Line
Saving yourself from your sweet tooth doesn’t mean you have to give up dessert.
- Eat fruit based desserts and keep the fruit as whole as possible
- Get comfortable with dates and raisins, which are full of cavity fighting agents
- Go for a sugar substitute that fights decay
- Take care of your teeth every day and visit your dentist
There are plenty of ways you can enjoy your sweets without ruining your teeth. Bon appétit!