Attitudes towards smiles, bad breath, and tooth decay have changed throughout much of human history. But some things stay surprisingly consistent.
For instance, when thinking of the middle ages, many may not picture good teeth, but those who lived throughout that period actually valued good dental health. Much like today, individuals living in the middle ages would brush, creates pastes, and even attempt to combat bad breath (halitosis).
More surprisingly — their dental habits worked. Archaeological records indicate that only 20% of people from the middle ages exhibited tooth decay. That may seem like a large chunk, but it pales compared to the rates of tooth decay in the 20th century, which showed that up to 90% of people displayed some level of tooth decay.
You might be thinking, “What could cause such a stark jump in tooth decay?” After all, modern societies have many more tools to combat tooth decay and preserve dental health. While we’ll get to the underlying cause of the increased rate of modern tooth decay, the dental tools of today are equally important. Those living in the middle ages had little means to address major oral issues. Often, their version of dental care was a tooth pulling from the local barber.
Today, you thankfully don’t have to resort to calling your barber to get dental help. And most of the time, proper care doesn’t necessitate a simple tooth pulling. We have modern, technologically equipped dentists who can provide preventative care and care that addresses tooth decay. And while most modern dentists are better than the barbers of old, South Charlotte Dentistry stands out as one of the best dental providers in the entire Charlotte area.
As we delve into the root cause of this sharp increase in tooth decay, consider booking an appointment to see if you’re someone living with a case of tooth decay.
The Root Cause — Sugar
Why may your teeth decay more than those living as far back as the middle ages? It’s simple: sugar. Sugar is the root cause of tooth decay and cavities because it allows bacteria to thrive in your mouth.
While not all bacteria are bad, the bacteria that loves sugar is responsible for the tooth decay in question. That’s because after feeding on sugars it produces acid, which erodes the outer layer of your teeth. This damage sometimes necessitates dental crowns or sealants, a procedure that’s well within South Charlotte Dentistry’s expertise. But that’s avoidable if you watch sugar consumption.
Sugar that stays on the teeth is even worse, allowing harmful bacteria to multiply and do prolonged damage. That’s one reason brushing twice a day is essential!
An Increase in Sugar Consumption
Much distinguishes our modern counterparts from our predecessors from the middle ages. The technological advancements we alluded to earlier yield a wealth of benefits, but we’ve also suffered some steps back. Sugar consumption has seen a sharp increase as society has evolved, which is one of the driving forces behind this increase in decay.
Take, for example, the limited diets people back then kept. Sugars were scarce and used sparingly. People could usually only find it in fruits and honey and used it as a seasoning. This likely made meals less fun, but it prevented tooth decay!
Sugar has a direct relationship with tooth decay, and its accessibility in the modern era is the root of our tooth decay woes. Studies show that up to 82% of Americans consume excessive amounts of sugar, many of whom would likely exhibit sugar addiction.
Having too much sugar not only impacts your teeth but also has a slew of other adverse health effects. Including more sugar than necessary in your diet can result in inadequate nutrition, weight gain, increased triglycerides (which can lead to heart disease), and many other health issues. Those struggling with sugar intake are not alone, and likely not too different from our counterparts from the middle ages, despite the disparity in consumption rates.
Humans and Our Sugar Habits
The next time you catch yourself craving a candy bar (or really any food with high sugar content), know that it’s natural. Daniel Lieberman, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard, discusses humanity’s long relationship with sugar and paints a picture of how our cravings and addictions have deep roots.
“Sugar is a deep, deep ancient craving,” says Liberman. He cites the dietary benefits a healthy amount of sugar had for our ancestors and those of us today. Sugar helps people store fat, something that in a time of food scarcity was vital to stay energized and healthy. That’s why we find ourselves having sugar cravings and why sugary foods taste good to us in the first place!
Our relationship with sugar is so innate that studies have even shown so on a neurological level. It causes our brains to release dopamine, as it does when partaking in other addictions.
“For millions of years, our cravings and digestive systems were exquisitely balanced because sugar was rare,” says Lieberman.
Now, in a society and culture with plentiful and accessible food (many of which are high in sugar), people face the biological challenge of balancing that innate craving with the alarming rates of tooth decay. Our bodies aren’t adapted or meant to handle high sugar levels, and tooth decay is one of the many indicators of that lack of adjustment.
Limiting Sugar To Save Your Teeth
With that knowledge, we know there are some forces not in your favor that boils down to two truths:
- Your sugar cravings are backed by biology.
- We live in a society that has access to sugar at unprecedented levels.
Those of us living today have an advantage our ancestors didn’t: We know how to keep tooth decay at bay.
Healthy Habits That Protect Your Teeth from Sugar
We don’t expect anyone to forgo sugar altogether. Still, if you’re planning on keeping moderate levels of sugar in your diet, you should plan to incorporate some healthy practices that preserve your teeth for the long haul.
- Brush your teeth often. Removing sugar from your mouth keeps it from doing serious damage. It’s also vital to do so with a fresh and effective toothbrush, meaning you should aim to replace your brush regularly.
- Use mouthwash and rinse your mouth after eating particularly sugary foods. This, much like brushing, prevents sugary substances from building up and contributing to bacterial growth.
- Choose snacks with less sugar. Like those who lived in the middle ages, if you’re craving something with sugar, opt for fruit or honey as a natural way to satisfy the craving.
- Pay attention to a food’s consistency. As we’ve stressed, food with high sugar content can wreak havoc if it stays in your mouth. Eating a plain piece of cake would be better than a thick, stickier brownie for this very reason.
Choosing South Charlotte Dentistry
One essential strategy for combatting tooth decay is to visit a good dentist. Having a professional’s guidance can assist you in determining if your current diet and sugar intake are working, or if it’s leading to a lifetime of tooth decay.
In a modern world filled with teeth-attacking food, choose a reputable dentist with up-to-date technology and equipment. South Charlotte Dentistry is the perfect dentist for just that. Our staff is well-trained to provide a wide array of dental healthcare, not just limited to tooth decay prevention and treatment.
Customer reviews also agree that visiting South Charlotte Dentistry moves your dental health forward. Here’s just one of many examples of the stellar reviews our office has received via Google:
Dr. Wells and his staff are amazing! Everything is clearly explained, preferences are respected and there is no pain! I waited TOO LONG to switch from the dark age dentistry and am so grateful to be in such great hands!
So, move on from the dark age of dentistry, tackle tooth decay, and combat the sugar craze. Schedule an appointment with South Charlotte Dentistry today!