The FDA’s announcement last week that it was requiring changes to how sugars are presented on the Nutrition Facts label was sweet news to many public health advocates, perhaps especially dentists.

Among other label alterations, the new rule requires food manufacturers to disclose the amount of added sugars, such as corn syrup. High-sugar diets have been linked to a host of health problems, including tooth decay and obesity.

Brushing Up on the New Label

Since the Nutrition Facts label was introduced more than two decades ago, it has undergone little significant change. In the meantime, knowledge of certain links between our diet, our oral health and our systemic health has expanded greatly.

One of the key additions to the label, which food manufacturers have until July 2018 to adopt, is a space for “Added Sugars” in grams and as a percent of the recommended “Daily Value.” According to the FDA’s page on the new label, “Scientific data shows that it is difficult to meet nutrient needs while staying within calorie limits if you consume more than 10 percent of your total daily calories from added sugar…”

Other major changes to the Nutrition Facts label include:

  • Via a larger type size, more prominence will be given to “Calories,” “Servings per container” and “Serving size”
  • Manufacturers must declare the actual amount of vitamin D, calcium, iron and potassium in addition to the percent of the “Daily Value”
  • Daily values for sodium, dietary fiber, vitamin D and other nutrients are being updated based on the latest scientific research
  • Serving sizes for certain products will be changed to reflect what people actually eat, rather than what they should eat (for example, on a 20-ounce soda, calories and nutrients must be calculated for a single serving because most people would consume it in one sitting)

The changes are the result of a long, hard-fought battle, a number of major food associations associated with the sugar industry fought the proposed changes for years.

Sugar and Tooth Decay

There are a number of factors that affect the onset and spread of tooth decay, but there is one cause that outweighs all the others: sugar.

Certain bacteria in the mouth feed on sugars left behind by the food and beverages we consume. This creates acids that erode the tooth enamel and can eventually lead to cavities; cavities are infections that have progressed through the enamel and into deeper layers of the tooth.

Tooth decay is the most widespread noninfectious disease worldwide. According to the National Institute for Dental and Craniofacial Research, 42 percent of school-age children in the US have dental cavities, and 92% percent of adults age 20-64 have had cavities (among those with teeth–5% of adults in this age group have no teeth).

The Risks of Tooth Decay

Tooth decay is a serious problem that, without timely treatment, can impact your general health. Untreated cavities can lead to deeper infection of the teeth, and may result in tooth loss and periodontal disease.

Missing teeth and gum disease have additional risks. Missing teeth can affect the positioning of your remaining natural teeth, as well as the underlying jaw bone structure. Tooth loss has been linked to an increased risk for dementia. Periodontal disease has been associated with an increased risk for diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and other life-threatening conditions.

The FDA’s Nutrition Label changes may not put an end to tooth decay, obesity or other health problems, but they will help consumers make more informed decisions about what’s in the foods they choose to eat. And a little extra knowledge can go a long way, making it easier for them to make food swaps to improve their health.

If you’re seeking a compassionate, experienced dentist in Rancho Mirage call Country Club Dentistry at (760) 832-7915 to schedule your appointment. We’re dedicated to your health, comfort and satisfaction.