How Much Sugar Is Too Much?

cubes of sugar

There’s nothing quite like an ice cream cone on a hot summer day. While everyone (even your dental team at Sullivan Family Dental) can overlook the occasional sweet indulgence, we all also know that sugar, like many good things, should be enjoyed in moderation.

Why is sugar a bad thing for teeth?

Sugar and saliva combine to feed bacteria and create plaque, the buildup of which causes tooth decay, or cavities. Sugar and saliva also produce acids, which corrode the enamel and break down tooth structure.

Curious about that fuzzy feeling you sometimes get on your teeth? Learn more here.

Are all sugars bad?

As a general rule of thumb, the short answer is yes, all sugar is bad for your teeth, but some sugars are worse than others. Take caramels or toffee for example; both candies are delicious and full of sugar, and since they are sticky and stay in your mouth for longer, they promote the growth of more bacteria, leading to even more tooth decay. The sugars in soft drinks, like soda, are harmful to your teeth and the presence of acids in these types of drinks increase the rate of tooth decay.

How much sugar is too much?

It’s a pretty safe bet to say that we all consume more sugar than we should. In terms of your teeth, the danger (at least for your teeth) is less a matter of the amount of sugar, but rather one of the frequency of intake. Consider all the “hits” of sugar you have in a week; do you like jam on your toast? Fruit juice with your breakfast on occasion? Sodas? Candies and sweets here and there? And who can resist baked goods?

Do you like a teaspoonful of sugar in your coffee? With that alone you’re already on your way to The American Heart Association recommendation of no more than 9 teaspoons of sugar per day, that’s between 100 and 150 calories per day. The average American adult consumes 22 teaspoons per day. And what about the average child? 32 teaspoons.

But what does that really look like?

  • There are 10 teaspoons of sugar in a 12 oz. can of coke
  • There are 10.5 teaspoons of sugar in a serving of Fruit Loops
  • A standard (1.69 oz) package of milk chocolate M&M’s contains 7.5 teaspoons of sugar
  • About a ½ cup of raspberries has just 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • There is less than 1 teaspoon of sugar in a bacon, egg, & cheese biscuit from McDonald’s
  • Chobani Flip clover honey has 7.2 teaspoons of added sugar.

How can I consume less sugar?

If you have a sweet tooth, it can be tempting to keep your cravings at bay with hard
candies. Exposing your teeth to the sugar in these frequently puts your teeth at risk of cavities! A better alternative? Try chewing sugarless gum! It keeps you busy, without the extra sugar and calories.

All natural sweeteners, like Stevia or coconut sugar, are good alternatives to regular sugar. Coconut sugar can help slow down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream and it has also has iron in it.

Although natural sugar, the kind found in fruits, is far less dangerous than added sugars, just watch your citrus intake. A slice of lemon in your tea may seem harmless, but the acid of the citrus can erode enamel, making teeth more susceptible to decay. Drink plenty of plain water to offset this.

Watch out for sports drinks! Although they seem healthy, sugar is often the number one
ingredient. Check the label and make sure your choice is low in sugar or better yet, drink water.

How can I protect my teeth from sugar?

The following steps can help reduce tooth decay that is often associated with sugar:

    • Brush your teeth carefully twice a day and floss daily.
    • Come visit the team at Sullivan Family Dental twice a year for a checkup and cleaning. (Have you seen us in the last six months? If not, you’re overdue! Make an appointment today!)
    • Cut down on your snacking! Try to limit your consumption of added sugars to mealtimes only. This will reduce the production of acids and plaque in your mouth.
    • If you eat between meals throughout the day, carry a portable toothbrush with you and brush after a sweet snack to clean your teeth of the sugar before it can form plaque or damaging acids.
    • Use a mouthwash to remove as much sugar and stickiness as possible. If a fluoride mouthrinse is not available, swishing plain water can help.
    • Be aware of ingredient labels! Watch out for foods and drinks ingredients with the suffix –ose, which is Latin for “full of” and in terms of biochemistry, ‘full of sugar.’

The best way you can maintain a healthy smile is to visit Dr. Sullivan and the team at Sullivan Family Dental every six months. Even with careful brushing and flossing, Dr. Sullivan needs to see you twice a year to check from problems that you may not be able to see or feel. Regular visits allow Dr. Sullivan to catch dental problems in the early stages, before things get more serious. You know what they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

Contact our office today!