Hidden Sugars and Your Teeth

We’ve been told since childhood that sugar causes cavities. Unfortunately, there are nearly 60 compounds used in foods, beverages, and chewing gums that aren’t clearly identified as “sugar.” These compounds have all the drawbacks of sugar but, because of their names, you may consume them in far greater quantities that you think, simply because the name of that sugary ingredient isn’t clearly defined in your mind as a sugar substance.

How Sugar Damages Teeth

We’ve all heard the saying, “sugar rots your teeth.” Truth be told, it’s not the sugar itself that causesScreen Shot 2015-06-02 at 10.41.09 AM cavities. Cavities form when oral bacteria digest the carbohydrate fragments left on teeth after you eat or drink. While these fragments may be from candy, cookies or other sweet treats, they are also left by vegetables, fruits and whole grains, which are healthy foods. Unfortunately, the bacteria don’t know the difference! They interact with these carbohydrate fragments to create an acid. The acid combines with your saliva to create plaque. It’s the plaque that leads to tooth decay. Every time you eat or drink carbohydrates, plaque begins to form. What stops plaque build-up is frequent brushing and flossing. If not removed, the plaque begins to erode the hard outer enamel of the tooth, creating tiny holes. This is the first sign of a cavity.

Over time, those tiny holes will eat through the other layers of your teeth, including the dentin (the soft layer of tooth beneath the enamel), all the way to the pulp, which is the location of your teeth’s nerves and blood vessels. Left untreated, damage can extend into the bone supporting the tooth, causing abscesses, severe discomfort, and sensitivity that leads to tooth loss.

The above details may lead you to wonder if you might as well eat that donut instead of an apple, since both contain carbohydrates, but that would be inaccurate. Fruits and vegetables are more easily washed away with your saliva than are manufactured sweets such as candies or breath mints, for example, which become stuck in the tiny grooves of the teeth

Furthermore, the way you consume carbohydrates also affects the risk for dental damage. Nursing a can of soda for several hours causes more damage to teeth than drinking it immediately, as the teeth are washed over and over with the acidic soda. It takes about 30 minutes after eating or drinking carbohydrates for acid to begin forming. Therefore, every time you take a sip or eat a chip, you’re “resetting the clock” on bacteria formation.

It Pays To Be Aware

Sugars come in many forms. If you want to become a more aware consumer, take a look at this list of 56 compounds that are, essentially, sugar. Watch for them when making choices between products at the market and do your best to purchase items without these ingredients.

  • Agave nectar
  • Barbados sugar
  • Barley malt
  • Beet sugar
  • Blackstrap molasses
  • Brown rice syrup
  • Brown sugar
  • Buttered syrup
  • Cane juice crystals
  • Cane sugar
  • Caramel
  • Carob syrup
  • Castor sugar
  • Confectioner’s sugar
  • Corn syrup
  • Corn syrup solids
  • Crystalline fructose
  • Date sugar
  • Demerara sugar
  • Dextran
  • Dextrose
  • Diastatic malt
  • Diatase
  • Ethyl maltol
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • Florida crystals
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Galactose
  • lucose
  • Glucose solids
  • Golden sugar
  • Golden syrup
  • Grape sugar
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Icing sugar
  • Invert sugar
  • Lactose
  • Malt syrup
  • Maltose
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Muscovado sugar
  • Organic raw sugar
  • Panocha
  • Raw sugar
  • Refiner’s syrup
  • Rice syrup
  • Sorghum syrup
  • Sucrose
  • Sugar
  • Treacle
  • Turbinado sugar
  • Yellow sugar

To your dental health & beauty,
Jeffrey Shapiro, DDS, PC and Glenn Chiarello, DDS
NYC Cosmetic Dentists