Why eating sweets is harmful for the teeth


Teeth decay is an important problem that affects individuals globally. It is an infectious disease in which acid produced by bacteria destroy the teeth. A dynamic relationship exists between sugars and teeth decay. These two components are integrally related. Sugar is known to affect the teeth by decreasing the quantity and pH of the saliva.


India has witnessed an increasing trend in the prevalence of dental caries. Around 40 – 45% of the populations in India suffer from tooth decay with sugar being the primary etiologic factor.


When an individual eats food in the form of sugar, the sugar is broken down producing acids. This acid reacts with the bacteria in the mouth leading to loss of minerals (calcium & phosphate) from the tooth. This process known as demineralization leads to the formation of cavities (decay) within the mouth.


Tooth decay occurs because of increased sugar intake along with bacteria. Sugar is the critical dietary food that causes this condition. The form in which the sugar is consumed, frequency and amount influence the occurrence of decay.

Sugars are of two types, natural and added sugars. Natural sugars are available in fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy foods. Added sugars are the sugars that are added to foods during preparation. This includes white or brown sugar, honey, molasses, and corn syrup. Natural sugars do not make a significant contribution to the development of decay.

Sticky foods remain on the tooth surface increasing the chance of cavities in contrast to the liquid foods. Example of sticky foods having high retention rates includes biscuits, confectionary, cakes, sweets, etc.

Baby bottle decay results when sugar-containing milk bottles are left in the child’s mouth for a prolonged period.

Clinical features

Whitish or brown spots on the teeth are the first sign of teeth decay. When this decay worsens cavities occur on the teeth surface. If the deeper teeth layers are involved tooth decay harm the nerves in the teeth leading to increased sensitivity. The person complains of increased sensitivity especially on eating or drinking anything cold or sweet. This decay can damage the teeth to the extent that they might need to be replaced, for example with a bridge.


Decay in several teeth often causes pain, abscess in tooth, broken tooth, loss of teeth, chewing difficulties and severe infection.


The primary treatment option for tooth decay involves removal of the decay with a drill and to restore it with fillings (composite, porcelain, amalgam). Extensive decay might require a crown after root canal treatment is done or requires removal of the tooth.


A diet void of added sugars would be difficult to achieve and maintain. Maintaining a moderate use of added sugars is a prudent recommendation to prevent decay

  • 1. Include more of Cariostatic foods (foods that do not cause dental caries) instead of sugars in your diet. This includes eggs, meat, fish, vegetables and sugarless gums (sorbitol, xylitol, mannitol, asparatame).
  • 2. Avoid slow release sugars such as hard candies, breath mints, and lollipops. These sugars are gradually released in the mouth over time increasing the occurrence of dental caries
  • 3. Sugar-free gums stimulate saliva, increasing the clearance of sugars from the teeth and the oral cavity
  • 4. Rinse your mouth with water after the consumption of sugar-containing foods
  • 5. Avoid putting an infant or child to bed with a bottle of milk, juice, or other sugar-containing beverage.
  • 6. Consuming sugars as a part of meals rather than in between meals reduces the risk of caries.
  • 7. World Health Organization suggests limiting the intake of free and added sugars (25g) (6 teaspoons)/day to decrease dental decay. This amounts to 5% of the total energy intake
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