No Dentist? No problem ... in the Middle Ages!
Henry VII Tudor England can show us something interesting about dental health. The year 1500 was the date that marked our familiarity with cavities.
Once upon a time in a kingdom in England far far away sat the loneliest dentist there ever was. He would travel from village to village looking for someone anyone with a rotten tooth to pull. It was hard, even though no one brushed let alone flossed all their teeth were nice and white. He then happened upon a well-to-do town that imported fine spices largely for the very rich. One of rich folks favourites was the sweet salt that had been brought back from the middle east by the crusaders.
The dentist was kept very busy pulling teeth from the rich that loved their sweets so much so that he was able to settle down and start a family. His wife came home one day with the blackest of teeth. The dentist was in shock until she explained that the new fashion was to blacken your teeth to look more like the rich.
A bit revisionist but it basically shrinks down a few hundred years. What is really interesting is that in a fairly clear point in time in the Tudor era of around 1500 you can see something very dramatic.
Tudor Teeth Pre Sugar
From: Hidden Killers of the Tudor Home
Prior to this point refined sugar did not really exist in any quantity. Teeth from this time frame are fairly healthy as seen in the first picture. There are no cavities. The second set of teeth are from after 1500 and the rot is very evident. Why?
Tudor Teeth Post Sugar
From: Hidden Killers of the Tudor Home
Our mouths are full of many different types of bacteria - always have been, always will be. The bacteria feed on different things that we put in our mouths and how many of each type of bacteria will vary based on what you eat. Simple sugars (e.g. white sugar and all the stuff made with it) are eaten by certain types of bacteria. They get the sugar that is not cleaned off your teeth and then start to produce acids and form a plaque which is a great place for more of the bacteria to hide.
The acids in the plaques remove minerals in the teeth's hard outer enamel causing tines holes to begin which we all know as cavities. Now the bacteria and acid can get to the next layer, the softer dentin. The acid and bacteria continue expanding the cavity and eventually reach the inner layer, the pulp, that contains nerves and blood vessels, then you really feel it.
But why the obvious date switch? Basically it is volume. Almost all meals have some sort of sugar in it. The naturally occurring amount in broccoli or wheat berries when eaten whole with minimal processing won't benefit the acid causing bacteria to gain any advantage, there is just not enough available sugar in your mouth to cause a problem. In today's easy food access world any carb that sticks to your teeth will promote plaque formation, for example raisins and dry cereal will stick to and between your teeth causing an issue. Another thing to consider is how you eat sugary foods not just the volume. Chugging a can of pop is much less damaging than sipping one throughout the day because the acid created by the bacteria sticks around for 30 minutes after every time you eat or drink.
The current trend of less white sugar is a very good thing even if you only look at just the effect on teeth let alone the obvious weight issues. Simple sugars exist in more "natural" form as well and are just as bad for you, for example honey, molasses, maple syrup, raw sugar and so on are no better. The difference is you are not going to have a double double with molasses. The stronger flavours of natural sugars easily lend themselves to much less volume in a recipe to get the desired sweet taste.
The last big issue of the over use of sugar is in preservation. Salt and sugar (or sweet salt if you like the Tudor terminology) are used in a lot of processed foods to help them stay "fresh" longer. Simply eating home made meals cuts the entire need for preservation out entirely.
At Lakelands Diet Delivery we don't use an excessive amount of refined sugar in any of our meals. We prefer to capitalize on the natural sweetness of fruits and veg especially when you know how to cook as well as we do we can highlight the natural sweetness of our natural foods. We only sell fresh meals that have no need of extra sugar for preservation.