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Bowl of sugar

How sugar leads to tooth decay

Sugar itself actually isn’t bad for teeth - rather, sugar combined with saliva feeds bacteria that cause tooth decay. In an ideal world, we wouldn’t have this specific bacteria in our mouths and could thus eat all the sugar we wanted. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The presence of sugar (especially sucrose) in the mouth with a combination of bacteria results in the production of plaque and acids which break down tooth structure (enamel & dentine).

Plaque can usually be removed through correct brushing and flossing technique. Accumulated plaque leads to calculus, which forms a perfect home for more bacteria, meaning that a scale and clean is needed. This happens for pretty much everyone - even dentists!

Are all sugars equally bad?

In short, no. As a general rule, all sugars are bad for your teeth and some are even worse. Sticky, sugar-filled substances, such as toffee or caramel, stick to your teeth and are therefore present in your mouth for longer, promoting the growth of even more bacteria. The presence of acid (such as in soft drinks) increases the rate at which decay occurs, therefore making it one of the worst options for a sugar fix.

We also receive questions about honey, which occurs naturally, and is therefore believed by some to be safe for teeth. Unfortunately, honey is made of glucose and fructose, which are both sugars. Therefore, honey leads to tooth decay too.

How much sugar is too much?

The interesting point many people we talk to learn is that it is not necessarily the quantity of consumed sugar that leads to more tooth decay, but more so the frequency of sugar intake. As an example, if you had a packet of ten sugary biscuits, it would be better (for your teeth) to consume them all in one sitting (one “sugar hit”) rather than eating them separately, spaced out over time (ten separate sugar hits). At this point, it would be advisable to consider how often you consume sugar throughout a normal day. Do you have jam on your toast? Sugar in your coffee? A sweet treat for morning or afternoon tea? A sugary drink with lunch or dinner?

What frequency is too much, then? Current guidelines are that eating sugar ten times or more per week takes you out of the “low risk” category. That’s right - only 10 per week. Any more and you are no longer at low risk.

We know you’re human

Let’s face it - sugar is hard to avoid and living a sugar-free life is almost impossible. The best way to avoid pain and extensive dental treatment is to make your diet work a bit better with respect to sugar and to get your regular scale and clean (usually every six months).

If it’s been over six months since you’ve seen us, you’re overdue! Just like servicing your car, regular maintenance of your teeth prevents serious and expensive surprises down the track. Call us on (08) 9301 4088, book online or contact us via other methods.