Researchers say that the high-glycemic diet that leads to dental problems in the short term may, in the long term, cause harm to the body.
"The five-alarm fire bell of a tooth ache is difficult to ignore," says Dr. Philippe P. Hujoel, professor of dental public health sciences at the University of Washington (UW) School of Dentistry in Seattle.
Hujoel weighed two contradictory viewpoints on the role of dietary carbohydrates in health and disease. The debate surrounds fermentable carbohydates: foods that turn into simple sugars in the mouth.
Fermentable carbohydrates are not just sweets like cookies, doughnuts, cake and candy. They also include bananas and several tropical fruits, sticky fruits like raisins and other dried fruits, and starchy foods like potatoes, refined wheat flour, yams, rice, pasta, pretzels, bread, and corn.
One viewpoint is that certain fermentable carbohydrates are beneficial to general health and that the harmful dental consequences of such a diet should be managed by the tools found in the oral hygiene section of drugstores.
A contrasting viewpoint suggests that fermentable carbohydrates are bad for both dental and general health, and that both dental and general health need to be maintained by restricting fermentable carbohydrates.
The close correlation between the biological mechanisms that cause dental decay and the factors responsible for high average levels of glucose in the blood is intriguing.
Hujoel explains that eating sugar or fermentable carbohydrates drops the acidity levels of dental plaque and is considered an initiating cause of dental decay.
"Eating these same foods, he says, is also associated with spikes in blood sugar levels. There is fascinating evidence that suggests that the higher the glycemic level of a food, the more it will drop the acidity of dental plaque, and the higher it will raise blood sugar. So, possibly, dental decay may really be a marker for the chronic high-glycemic diets that lead to both dental decay and chronic systemic diseases. This puts a whole new light on studies that have linked dental diseases to such diverse illnesses as Alzheimer's disease and pancreatic cancer," Hujoel said.
The report has been published in the Journal of Dental Research.