How Does Sugar Effect Dental Health?
Tooth decay occurs when bacteria break down sugars and starches in plaque. This forms acid
which dissolves the nearby tooth enamel. Much of what children eat causes decay. Sugar is
found in cow’s milk, milk-based formulas, and even breast milk, which can cause decay. Apple
juice, Sunny Delight and other fruit drinks are high in sugars which produce acids that erode
Frequency – Frequent snacking on foods high in sugar and starches increases the amount of
time the teeth are exposed to the dissolving effects of various acids. The frequency of snacking
is more important than the amount of the snack. The most common source of sugar is found in
soft drinks and juice drinks. Twelve ounces of Coke contains 20 teaspoons of sugar; twelve
ounces of many fruit drinks contain 1/4 cup of sugar.
Form – Sticky foods are retained on the teeth and allow a longer time for acid production. High
in sugar, sticky foods include peanut butter, fruit snacks, chewing gum, raisins, other dried
fruits and many candies. Even starchy foods such as cereals, breads, crackers, pretzels and
potato chips may linger in the mouth longer than some sweet foods. Just remember, foods that
dissolve/melt are better choices than foods that stick!
To Achieve and Maintain Optimal Dental Health:
o Brush twice a day and (ideally) floss once a day to remove dental plaque. Use a pea-
sized amount of toothpaste containing fluoride. Parents should assist children under
age 8 with brushing and flossing. Once a child learns how to write cursive, the hand
skills needed to be a good brusher are developed.
o Infant gums should be wiped with a damp washcloth or tooth towel after each feeding.
o Do not allow infants to sleep with bottles containing sweetened liquids, fruit juices, milk
or formula. Only use water for naps and night-time.
o Eat a balanced diet including fruits and vegetables, protein and dairy products.
o Minimize the number of between-meal snacks eaten each day, and limit sweets and
juices to mealtimes.
o Bottled water is okay for adults, but kids should have at least 8 oz. of tap water a day to
obtain an adequate amount of fluoride.
o Sugarless chewing gum can help eliminate food particles caught between teeth after a
meal and also helps prevent plaque build-up by stimulating saliva production.
o Visit your dentist every 6 months to keep you teeth and gums healthy.
Sugar in Liquid Foods
Regular soft drinks provide youth and young adults with significant amounts of sugar
and calories. Both regular and diet sodas affect American’s intake of various vitamins
TSPS OF SUGAR
Coke, Dr. Pepper.…
10 tsp or 40g
6 ½ tsp
8 ¾ tsp
4 ½ tsp
(Instant sweetened with sugar)
1 Teaspoon Sugar = approximately 4 grams
12 Teaspoons = ¼ cup
What to Drink Instead of Soft Drinks….
o Orange, grapefruit, white grape and other diluted juices
o Crystal Light
The Sweet Facts
Most parents are confident that their children are eating very few sweets. But sugar is
hard to avoid. Some percentage is found in almost everything we eat.
Commercial breakfast cereals in particular contain a large amount of sucrose and
glucose. Sucrose is a sugar refined from sugar cane and beets. The glucose is sweet
syrup drawn from fruit starches. Both of these are prevalent to some extent in all
But sugars are also found in many other foods children enjoy. If you are not sure about
the sugar content of a product, read the label. Ingredients are listed relative to the
amount in the product. Therefore, if sugar is listed first, there is more of it than any
Dietary Control of Dental Decay
The following are examples of food containing large quantities of sugar. This is NOT a
complete list, so when food shopping please be label conscious. Learn to read labels to
know the sugar content of each serving, look for the words “high-fructose corn syrup”
or sugar per serving in that food. When shopping for snacks, remember that raw fruits
and vegetables are the best choices. When that isn't possible, substitute with an
Try to avoid…
Apple and other fruit
Jams and jellies
Sugar coated cereals
Donuts and pastries
Candy, chewing gum
Nuts (after age 3)
Popcorn (not sugar
Hard boiled eggs
Sugarless gum, candy,
Low sugar cereals
Foods best eaten with meals…
Milk drinks, milkshakes
Potato and Corn chips
Fruit Juices or fruit drinks
Fruit flavored water without sugar added
Artificially sweetened varieties
Hi-C or Kool-Aid
Kool-Aid mix with artificial sweeteners
Sweet tea & other sweetened drinks
Donut or Pop Tart
Toast or bagel without jelly
Fruit, lower sugar varieties-graham crackers
Nuts, popcorn (not sugar coated), crackers,
cheese, ice cream, popsicles, pudding and juice
Fruit Roll-ups or dried fruits
Fresh fruit and vegetables
High sugar cereal
Oatmeal and other cooked cereals