Is Sugar Really The Enemy for My Teeth

August 21, 2020, Tandara Dental Centre

Ever since we were kids, we have always been warned to stay away from sugar. That it will make our teeth rot and fall out. But is that true?
Ever since we were kids, we have always been warned to stay away from sugar. That it will make our teeth rot and fall out. But is that true?
Ever since we were kids, we have always been warned to stay away from sugar. That it will make our teeth rot and fall out. And yes, this would be true if you were consuming loads of sugar as it can lead to tooth decay. However, tooth decay isn’t actually caused by the sugar itself, but rather what happens in your mouth after you eat lollies or have a sugary soda. Of course, kids are more likely to respond to your warnings about the effects of sugar on teeth as opposed to the scientific explanation of a continuous war taking place inside their mouth. Here’s what really happens and tips to help your family fight tooth decay.


Does sugar really cause cavities?

Well the truth is, eating sugar doesn’t actually harm your teeth. Tooth decay, also known as cavities, is actually caused by certain harmful bacterias within the oral ecosystem that feed on the sugars you consume. They then produce acids which destroy the tooth’s enamel, the shiny protective outer layer of your tooth.

In a nutshell, cavities are bacterial infections caused by acids created from harmful bacteria feeding off the sugars in your mouth, and NOT simply from just consuming sugar. Without proper treatment for your cavities, they can progress further, past the enamel and continue to deeper layers of the tooth, leading to pain and possible tooth loss.


Signs and symptoms of cavities include:

  • Toothaches
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Experience mild to sharp pains when eating or drinking something sweet, hot or cold
  • Pain when chewing
  • Bad breath
  • Visible holes or dark spots on a tooth
  • If you are currently experiencing any of these symptoms it’s best to visit your dentist as soon as possible.


What happens in your mouth

With all that’s said, this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to cut out sugar forever. In reality, your teeth are constantly under attack by acids, the good news is your body is doing every bit it can to reverse the damage caused by acids. Acids leach minerals from the enamel through a process called demineralisation.

Your body's natural defense mechanism will replace those minerals and strengthen your teeth all over again, everytime it happens. What is it?

It’s your saliva! Saliva contains minerals including calcium and phosphates which help repair teeth. Fluoride is another mineral that is commonly found in toothpastes and our drinking water helps repair a weakened enamel. However, replacing lost minerals can only go so far in preventing the effects of sugar on your teeth, especially if you consume a lot of sugary and starchy food and drink. So how do you combat tooth decay?


Bad food habits that cause tooth decay


Frequently snacking on foods that are high in sugar increases the amount of time your teeth are exposed to decay causing acids. Snacks high in sugar include lollies, cookies and starchy potato chips.

Consuming sugary drinks including soft drinks, energy drinks like Red Bull, sports drinks and fruit juices. Not only are these types of drinks high in sugar, they also contain high levels of acid.

Sticky foods such as rock candies, mints, caramel and lollipops are linked to tooth decay because they tend to stay in your mouth a lot longer. As their sugars are gradually released, it gives the harmful bacteria in your mouth more time to digest the sugar and produce more acid. This results in longer periods of demineralisation and shorter periods of remineralisation. Same can be said for potato chips.


Tips to fight tooth decay



  • Make sure to brush your teeth at least twice a day, morning and evening.
  • Floss at least once a day before bed.
  • Avoid eating sugary snacks or starchy foods.
  • Cut down on sugary drinks. If you do drink them, try not to sip them slowly over a long period of time as it exposes your teeth to sugar and acid for longer.
  • Always rinse your mouth, preferably with tap water which contains fluoride, after eating or drinking. This will help dilute any sugar that is caught on the surface of your tooth.
  • Visit your dentist every 6 months for your regular check up, scale and clean.



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