Updated: Jan 24
The drug of choice in Herriman and the rest of Utah is sugar.
I grew up here among the beautiful mountains of northern Utah not far from Herriman, and I know from experience that sugar is everywhere in Utah culture: It's handed out at school for every minor holiday and for teachers rewarding good behavior. We served it at church gatherings prior to Covid. We eat it for breakfast. We have it at our birthday parties. We drive through Swig or Sodalicious because we want to support our local sugar shops and our local dentists.
A study conducted by the Hershey Company shows that Utahns want candy. In fact, it’s now being considered the sweet-tooth capital of America.
Hershey’s found that Utahns purchase candy at the highest rate in the nation – almost double the U.S. average, at an 85 percent higher rate.
Professor Glenn Christensen from Brigham Young University said that there are several explanations for this, both demographic and cultural.
While sugar could be considered less of a vice than smoking or alcohol consumption it nevertheless has some serious health consequences including tooth decay. People who live in Herriman, Riverton, Daybreak, and South Jordan are more likely to eat sugar than smoke or drink. Despite having fluoride in the water in many communities and the advances in preventive dental care I still see high levels of tooth decay in my practice.
Now I'm going to say something bold and maybe a bit controversial:
Tooth decay is a choice and it is entirely preventable.
If added sugars are completely eliminated from the diet then tooth decay is no longer a problem:
If we choose to allow added sugar in our diet we choose to accept the very real risk that we will get tooth decay. For some people this is a risk they are willing to live with--but it is your choice.
Some people are more prone to tooth decay than others. There are genetics involved in the thickness of your enamel and the capacity for your saliva to buffer acid.
Also fluoride does indeed help prevent tooth decay by strengthening the enamel to prevent acid attack. Herriman, Utah has ideal fluoride levels at 0.7 ppm for the prevention of tooth decay but Salt Lake County did not start adding fluoride until 2002.
South Jordan, Riverton, and Bluffdale also have the same ideal level of 0.7 ppm of fluoride in the water. As a side note I have heard from many Herriman residents and experienced myself that the water does not taste great and has a very high mineral content making it very hard water. With this in mind; many people are probably drinking highly filtered water or buying bottled water which could mean that they are not getting the full dose of fluoride on their teeth as they drink water.
Fluoride helps teeth more resistant to tooth decay but if we did not eat added sugars in our diet we would not need the fluoride either.
Brushing and flossing our teeth also helps prevent tooth decay and the better oral hygiene habits you have the less likely you are to have tooth decay or gum disease. Brushing not only adds fluoride directly to your teeth if you are using fluoride toothpaste but it also removes the biofilm created by bacteria in your mouth.
Even people with excellent oral hygiene habits still sometimes get tooth decay. They are either genetically susceptible to decay and or consuming lots of added sugars in their diet.
While prevention of tooth decay by completely eliminating added sugars from the diet seems far fetched it is possible to achieve. If we reduce sugars in our diet it definitely helps. Sugar is in so many foods that it is difficult to avoid. We can be more selective about the foods we consume and find ways to prevent tooth decay and still enjoy an occasional treat. (However even adding some added sugars in our diet does put us at risk for tooth decay).
The first tip I would give would be to eliminate sugary and acidic beverages from your diet. Drink water. Avoid the worst of the worst culprits for tooth decay: Gatorade, Grapefruit juice, and sodas. Even diet, sugar free flavored beverages are usually acidic in nature so can lower the pH of your mouth and make you more prone to tooth decay or erosion of your enamel. If you don't like the way your water tastes then using a filter is a good way to help it taste better and is much healthier for you.
Here is a myth that needs to be busted. I grew up thinking fruit juice was healthy. I was wrong:
Fruit juice is not good for you. Not good for your teeth or your body. Juice is not a health food.
Eating fruit will help you live longer but drinking the juice of fruit will decrease your lifespan--and cause cavities in your teeth. Watch these videos for more details:
What is the worst food for tooth decay?
If avoiding sugary and acidic beverages is the number one way to help prevent tooth decay then what is the next worst food for causing decay? Candy? Yes candy is bad; especially candy that stays in your mouth for a long period of time or sticks to your teeth. Hard candies that you suck on for a long time are worse for your teeth than chocolate for example because chocolate melts faster and comes of your teeth more easily than sucking on a jolly rancher.
Here is a food proven to be worse than candy for your teeth and I'm sure there are a lot of us in Herriman, Riverton, and South Jordan who eat it: Breakfast Cereal--most breakfast cereal has A LOT of added sugar.
The only cereal I can recommend is plain old fashoned oatmeal with no added sugars and plain shredded wheat with no added sugar. The trick is that you can still make it taste great by adding fresh blueberries to shredded wheat. I love it this way! I also really enjoy plain old fashoned oatmeal with cut up apples and fresh blueberries. Also when peaches are in season I love cut up fresh peaches on my oatmeal. Give it a try!
While most of us in Herriman will probably not completely eliminate sugar from our diet we can make significant improvements and reductions in our sugar consumption.
I would also encourage our school teachers, parents, church leaders, and others to find healthy snacks to distribute at activities. Use something other than sugar to reward our kids at school. Sugar is a cheap trick and it is very addicting. For some of us complete elimination might be a better strategy than moderation due to the addicting nature of sugar.
If sugar is so addicting then why do we give it to our kids? I don't like to be a kill joy and I do sometimes have a sugary treat but we need to help support each other in this. It takes a lot of will power to avoid sugar now that we are all addicted--including me--I grew up eating a lot of sugar: my parents didn't know better.
It's also extremely difficult for me as a parent to limit the consumption of sugar for me and my family when it is all around us--my kids get it at school, and in neighbors homes, it's found at church activities, it's given as holiday gifts, and eaten at birthday parties, it's even given out at dental meetings and I have seen a ton of it given from one dentist to another (You would think they should know better). Knowledge is power. Do some research about the negative affects of sugar. Educate yourself. Let's try our best to cut back on how much sugar we consume and how much we feed sugar to our children and our community. It takes a village. I'm counting on you Herriman.
Need more motivation?
Watch these documentaries:
Fed up was made a while ago and discusses the role of sugar in the obesity epidemic. One of the reasons why the United States has such a high mortality rate with COVID-19 is because we are overweight as a country. Sugar consumption definately plays a role in the obesity epidemic and the negative affects of the COVID-19 pandemic as well.
Sugar Coated: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HlbyGSXpnA8
This documentary explains how the sugar industry hid the evidence just like the Tobacco industry about the terrible consequences for your health about sugar consumption.
There are a lot more documentaries, studies, and videos out there. I would also suggest nutritionfacts.org for evidence based nutrition information.
*We drive through Swig or Sodalicious for a pick me up--just keep in mind that sugar will actually make you more tired after than you were before you ate it!