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Many Different Sugars

November 1st, 2010

It is common knowledge that dietary sugars adversely affect dental health.  However, it is a misconception that  refined sugars (white or brown “sprinkling sugar”) are the only culprits to cause tooth decay.  Indeed, all types of sugars can be harmful to the teeth, including sucrose (common table sugar), fructose (fruit sugar), glucose (sugar by-products of carbohydrates), lactose (milk and dairy sugar), and maltose (grain and alcohol sugar).  For example, many infants who are allowed to hold a milk filled baby bottle in their mouth while falling asleep are often found to have extensive decay in their front teeth.  This situation, often called “baby bottle syndrome,” is caused by the adverse effects of lactose on the infant’s tooth enamel.

Why does sugar cause tooth decay?  Bacterial plaque, a thin film of sticky germs that can cover the tooth surface, digests the sugar and causes an acid residue to form on the teeth.  This acid then attacks the tooth enamel and leads to the formation of a cavity.
Therefore, in order to minimize the destructive effects of these acid producing bacteria, we need to reduce our intake of dietary sugars, and especially avoid the retentive sugars that really stick to the teeth (candy, soda, fruit roll-ups, etc.).  Proper brushing and flossing is required to dislodge any food debris from the teeth and create a clean environment free of  bacterial plaque, which will then reduce the incidence of dental decay.

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