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Are sugars really that bad for your teeth?

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Home  /  Bridge - Dental News  /  Are sugars really that bad for your teeth?

With sugar so prominent on our daily diet, we ask whether it's really a danger to your teeth. Read on to find out more.

We dealt with a patient recently who had just had a dental bridge fitted. As he left the surgery, he mentioned that, while the dental bridge costwas relatively significant, at least he wouldn’t have to worry about the effects of sugar and other ‘enemies’ of his teeth.


It set us thinking about the topic of sugar – and how it is having a growing impact on every aspect of our lives – including oral health.


If you look at the ingredients on the most common foods in your larder or fridge, it's quite frightening to see how much sugar they contain. And we’re not talking about the obvious culprits like chocolate or biscuits – the hidden sugar in everyday staples are even more worrying.

We can also see the effects of sugar on the growing waistlines of our population. Gone are the days when we could point the finger at those ‘big Americans’ – if the current trends continue, we’ll very soon outweigh them on an average basis.

But whatever the impact on our weight, what is the impact of sugar on our teeth? The big enemy of dental health – from a food point of view – is what we dentists refer to as fermentable carbohydrates.

You probably already know that carbohydrates are our major source of energy. They can be broken into two forms – complex carbohydrates (or starch) and sugars, which are also referred to as simple carbohydrates or fermentable carbohydrates.

These fermentable carbohydrates are broken down by the bacteria in your mouth to produce acid. This acid is actually produced in the mouth – as opposed to further down the digestive system – and it's this acid that’s at the root of the sugar problem.

So can you realistically expect to avoid all fermentable carbohydrates to reduce this acid production in your mouth? Well it would help if we understood the two different types of fermentable carbohydrates.

These are a whole range of naturally occurring sugars – such as fructose – which we find in healthy foods such as fruit and vegetables. These are the least harmful forms of sugar, as they form a part of unprocessed or natural foods.

These are not generally blamed on conditions such as dental caries – provided you eat them in their natural form rather than as juices or dried fruit, which have a much greater concentration of sugars and are a bigger danger to your teeth.


The other form of sugar – and the ones to avoid, if at all possible – are those that are added to improve the taste of foods. We’re referring to things like maple syrup, table sugar, soft drinks, biscuits, sweets etc. In other words, the sugar is an intrinsic part of the product offering, designed to get you hooked on the sweetness of the food or drink.


These are really harmful to your teeth, and you should make every effort to cut them down – or cut them out if at all possible. Not only will you see an improvement in your dental health, but your overall health and weight will also show a major improvement.


Sucrose is the leader of the pack when it comes to harming your teeth, and you should read the labels of your food very carefully to help you avoid it where possible. It helps to bind plaque together and attach it to your teeth, and prevent it from being washed away easily by your saliva.


We mentioned all this to our patient with the dental bridge and he left us in a thoughtful mood, to say the least. The dental bridge cost was soon relegated to second place in his thoughts as he considered how he would now wage war on the demon sugar!