Sugar – Your Teeth’s Enemy #1

Sugar - Your Teeth’s Enemy #1

People in the U.S. eat more sugar than people in any other country. (We also have some of the best doctors in the world, which is a good thing.) “Sugar makes your teeth rot,” you hear all the time. Is that true? Why is sugar so bad for your teeth? What does it do to your teeth? You might want to find out more about this thing that is in almost everything you can eat at the store.

Sugar 101

The plaque on your teeth comes from everything you eat. After you eat and drink, you’re left with little bits of food in your mouth. Sugar is the worst thing for your teeth out of all the things you eat.

Even healthy foods like milk, bread, and fruits and vegetables have some natural sugar in them. However, these foods also have vitamins and nutrients that your body needs. When you eat a good amount of natural sugars, your body has no trouble breaking them down with the other bits of food on your teeth.

When you eat food that is mostly sugar and not very good for you, problems start to happen. Without the right food, your body might not be able to fight the germs and tooth decay that eating too much sugar causes.

Sugar is sneaky because it’s in almost everything. Read the labels on your everyday foods carefully to get an idea of how much sugar you actually eat. This isn’t a complete list, but here are some examples of popular names for sugar that don’t tell you what they really are:

  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Sucrose
  • Barley malt
  • Dextrose
  • Maltose
  • Rice syrup

The American Heart Association says you shouldn’t eat more than 9.5 teaspoons of sugar per day. But in the U.S., the average adult eats 22 teaspoons of sugar every day, while the average child eats 32 teaspoons.


Why does sugar hurt your teeth so much? Because it leads to a buildup of bacteria and tooth decay.

Some germs are good for you and should be in your mouth. But sugar that stays on your teeth attracts bad bacteria that make plaque. Plaque makes your teeth weaker. Think about how the wind blows away little bits of sand from a dune until there is no dune left. Plaque does that to your teeth. It starts an acidic process that makes the outer layer of your teeth, called enamel, weaker.

If you snack all day, your teeth are subject to food buildup, plaque, and bacteria for a long time. When you drink rich drinks, the liquid gets into all the grooves and hard-to-reach places in your mouth. The average American drinks 53 gallons of soft drinks each year. Do you see where this is going?


When bacteria breaks down your enamel, you get a cavity, which is a hole in your tooth. Because of the hole, bacteria and dirt can get deeper into your tooth. It’s called tooth rot. The shiny white part of your teeth is called enamel. Its job is to protect the layers inside each tooth. Every single tooth has a blood supply and a nerve that keep it alive. If decay gets to your tooth’s inner layers, it could die and fall out. All of that can happen much faster than you might think.

What’s Next?

Tooth decay is the most common long-term illness in kids, and many people also have trouble with it. The good news is that tooth decay can be stopped by eating well and taking care of your teeth. If you want to protect your teeth from the bad effects of sugar, try these things:

  • Don’t eat all day long
  • Don’t put sugar in any drink
  • Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste 
  • Eat sweets in moderation.
  • Try licorice and cinnamon in their natural forms, which taste sweet without sugar
  • Sugar alternatives (those little yellow, blue, and pink packets) can still be bad for your health
  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss at least once

Last but not least, call us today to set up an appointment and be sure to have our amazing hygienists clean your teeth twice a year.

The information on this blog is not meant to replace medical advice, evaluation, or treatment from a doctor. If you have questions about a medical issue, you should always talk to a qualified health care provider.

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