Tooth decay is a widespread oral health problem; 91% of adults ages 20-64 have had a cavity in their lifetime. Cavities affect children as well, with reports showing that children in the US lose 51 million hours of school each year due to dental. The primary cause of tooth decay is plaque, which is a sticky film that harbors bacteria. The bacteria in plaque feed on sugars and produce acid as a byproduct, which erodes your tooth enamel. Making small changes to your diet, such as choosing honey over sugar or other sweeteners, can help reduce your risk of cavities. Honey contains sugars that are more complex than sucrose, which means it breaks down enamel more slowly. Pairing honey with mouth-healthy foods and using honey for its stress-alleviating properties can also benefit your oral health.
Choosing Honey over Sugar Can Slow Down Cavities
In table sugar, equal proportions of glucose and fructose bond to form sucrose, which can be easily broken down by the bacteria in your mouth. Honey has a lesser proportion of fructose, as well as trace minerals and other sugars; this means honey is lower on the glycemic index, and more complex for the body to metabolize. The bacteria that cause plaque have to work harder to break down honey than they would pure sucrose, giving you more time to clean your teeth and prevent any damaging effects. Along with sugar, acidic foods also contribute to the breakdown of tooth enamel, and honey on average has a lower pH than table sugar.
Eat More Honey to Get Rid of Harmful Bacteria
All forms of sugar contribute to tooth decay, but people tend to use less honey to achieve the same amount of sweetness in their foods and drinks, compared to sugar. Honey is denser than sugar and contains a more complex bouquet of flavors, which means a small amount of it goes a long way. Honey can complement a number of healthy foods that benefit your dental health, like apples, cheese, and yogurt. Honey also dissolves easily in warm water, which helps to combat dry mouth and wash away bacteria.
Honey Can Prevent Teeth Grinding
Stress can take a toll on your oral health, leading to bruxism and TMJ disorder. Bruxism is a tooth grinding habit that can cause teeth to chip and wear down over time. TMJ disorder, which can be brought on by teeth grinding, wears away at joints that hinge your upper and lower jaw. TMJ can cause facial pain and difficulty moving your mouth. Taking time to reduce stress by enjoying a cup of herbal tea infused with honey, or taking a bath with a honey scrub can result in healthier teeth and a healthier jaw.
Your food and lifestyle choices have a dramatic impact on keeping your mouth healthy. To protect your teeth, try reducing stress, choosing foods that are healthy for your teeth and finding alternatives to table sugar. Along with brushing, flossing and visiting the dentist biannually, honey can play a role in promoting better oral health.