We live in an age of contradictory magazine covers and Instagram posts: Stories about how to stop sugar cravings to rescue your teeth (and overall health) sit next to dreamy pictures of cakes cloaked in luscious, sugary buttercream frosting. Yet, that sugar is notorious for corroding tooth enamel, which can cause pain and cavities. We know we should cut back on sugar—but it’s so hard to fight the cravings! Your Birmingham dentist Dr. Maniscalco and our entire team here at Maniscalco Dentistry can help! Here are our top sugar avoidance tips—and if you worry about cavities, tooth pain relief treatment or otherwise brightening your smile, schedule an appointment today: (205) 967-9100.
1. Understand Why You Have Sugar Cravings
Sugar is a sneaky substance and it’s pervasive in the American diet. It lurks in large amounts, even in foods you probably think of as healthy! Tomato soup, granola, yogurt and all kinds of other foods at the grocery store have a shocking amount of added sugar that can sit there and nibble on your teeth between brushings. So, it’s easy to understand why it’s hard to avoid…
Basically, sugar makes you feel good—at least temporarily. It boosts those happy endorphins and tricks your serotonin receptors into thinking everything is right with the world. So, the ice cream you grab when you’re stressed does give you a short energy shot. Unfortunately, that buzz will rapidly spiral into another dip in energy and mood, which makes you want to go back for another bowl soon after.
So, first, it’s very important to understand this mechanism and how it works, and why sugar does this to us all, if we let it. So how can you counter sugar cravings? Try these ideas:
2. Reach for Healthier Alternatives
If you know that you tend to reach for sweets when you’re under stress or at certain times of the day when you feel like you need or deserve a little snack, load your lunch box, desk drawer or refrigerator with snacks that are lower in sugar and that will satisfy the real physical need you have for energy and a sense of well-being. If you just really need something sweet (we all sometimes do), have some of your favorite fresh fruit close at hand and snack on that instead of the doughnuts in the break room. While most fruits do have sugar in them, the amount is strikingly less in most cases. Fruit also provides health-boosting nutrients like extra fiber, vitamins and minerals that leave you feeling fuller longer. Your Birmingham dentist recommends going for the whole fruit, however, and not juices and commercially-produced smoothies. These are almost always higher in sugar and don’t provide all the health benefits of real fruit.
You can also try less-sweet alternative snacks like nuts, a bit of cheese and a big gulp of water—staying hydrated can help your body crave less sugar too!
3. Eliminate Sugar Altogether
The truth is, sugar can be very addictive. For some people, going cold turkey on sugar has been their best option. Be aware that if you try this route, you can experience a few days of withdrawal. That means you might be extra irritable, tired and experience even stronger sugar cravings than you’re used to. But if you can make it through those first few days, things will get significantly better. Many people who’ve tried this approach say that sugar fasting recalibrated their taste buds to prefer foods that are less sweet. In addition, it’s helped them focus on better nutrition overall, which has given them more sustained energy and better dental health. Once you experience the improved health and have fewer bouts of tooth pain, you’ll be more committed to the low-sugar lifestyle.
4. Try Portion Control
If you’re not ready to try a sugar fast yet, consider at least cutting back significantly. Instead of having a whole doughnut, cut it into smaller pieces and have just a bit. This can work for many people. If you try to limit, but not eliminate sugary sweets, another thing that works is eating only high-quality sweets. Instead of a candy bar from the vending machine, treat yourself to a small gourmet chocolate truffle instead. This can help you avoid feelings of deprivation that could lead you to binge later. At the same time, cutting back will still lower the onslaught of sugar on your dental health, not to mention your overall health.
5. Track your Sugar Intake in a Journal or Fitness App
Our Dentist in Birmingham has often suggested patients keep a food journal, or track their sugar intake on the fitness app of their choice, either on their phone or a wearable device. We have more options than ever before to help us understand what we are eating and why we are eating it! Dr. Maniscalco has seen this trick help many patients lower their sugar intake because they can see just what they are eating all day long, and notice how it makes them feel. Many apps have features that allow you to set goals about fat, protein, carbs, fiber and sugar intake that can spur you on to make healthier choices all through the day. The feeling of accomplishing goals like this often helps people get through sugar cravings because they are motivated to stick to their goal and report in with good news about avoiding sugar at the end of the day!
6. Visit with the Dentist Birmingham Trusts with Their Smiles
Keeping your regularly scheduled dental appointments can help keep your teeth in excellent health, and if you’re experiencing tooth pain of any kind, it’s important to seek relief treatment right away to prevent worse problems from damaging your dental health. Everyone here at Maniscalco Dentistry is here to support you in beating sugar cravings and keeping your smile sparkling and bright! Just schedule an appointment today, and we’ll be happy to see you!