What Ae the Effects of Sugar On Teeth?

posted by Dr. Beau Beecher, DDS on 11/15/2023 in General

woman sitting on the couch eating a pink frosted donut

From donuts and cake to white bread and wine, sugar is a delicious ingredient that adds sweetness to food and life. And while it’s important to enjoy the good things in life, it’s also essential to understand when too much of a good thing may have negative effects on your health. 

This awareness can help you take preventive action and avoid long-term health issues. Read on to learn how sugar affects your teeth and what you can do to avoid sugar-related tooth damage.

Understanding Natural and Added Sugars

Sugar is a sweet carbohydrate that your body converts into energy. There are various forms of sugar from powdered to syrup, but the most essential distinction to understand is natural sugars versus added sugars.

  • Natural Sugars. Fruits, vegetables, and dairy naturally have small amounts of sugar present. These sugars are known as fructose in fruits and lactose in milk. Because these foods are also chock full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, eating them is not as detrimental to your oral health. In fact, carrots, apples, yogurt, and other produce can be some of the best foods for your teeth and gums
  • Added Sugars. In contrast, when food is processed or manufactured, sugar is added for coloring or flavor. These can be natural sugars, but more often than not,  they are a large amount of chemically-manufactured sugars such as high fructose corn syrup. 

Foods With High Added Sugar 

Be wary of the foods you eat on a regular basis. You may not know it, but many of them — like the ones listed below — contain large amounts of added sugar and can be some of the worst foods for your teeth.  

  • Soda 
  • Energy drinks and bars
  • Candy and chocolate
  • Sweetened coffee and tea
  • Desserts: cakes, pies, etc.
  • White bread
  • Cereals
  • Ketchup

This is only a brief list. There are a myriad of foods that can be included. Make sure to check the nutritional label of a specific item to determine the percentage of added sugars.

The Effects of Excess Sugar On Your Teeth 

Now that you have an understanding of sugar fundamentals, learn the detrimental effects too much sugar can have on your teeth.

Damage Tooth Enamel 

Your mouth is home to hundreds of types of bacteria, some of which are beneficial to your oral health. But there are also harmful bacteria present, which feed on sugar and create acidity that breaks down tooth enamel. While your saliva can help neutralize this acidity, frequently consuming large amounts of sugar can cause more damage than your saliva alone can repair. 

Tooth Decay and Cavities 

With the presence of more acid and the breakdown of enamel, your teeth can become a breeding ground for decay and cavities. If left untreated, a cavity can spread beyond the enamel, penetrating deeper into the tooth, leading to significant discomfort and, in severe cases, tooth loss.


In addition to cavities, sugar also serves as a catalyst for plaque to develop on your teeth. Although this filmy buildup is initially harmless, if it’s left on your teeth too long it can progress to cavities, decay, tartar, and gingivitis.

Gingivitis, Gum Disease, and Other Dental Issues 

Among the more serious dental issues sugar can indirectly contribute to are gingivitis, as well as gum disease. The primary cause of these conditions is plaque, which as previously mentioned, forms when sugar and oral bacteria interact.

Can You Reverse Sugar Damage to Teeth?

Some tooth damage can be repaired because your tooth enamel is constantly remineralizing. However, if the damage is too severe, you may require professional dental treatment. 

Dental Treatments For Sugar-Damaged Teeth

If you have decayed or cavity-filled teeth, your dentist can offer a variety of solutions to either repair, remove, or replace teeth. Treatment options include: 

  • Dental Crown. This tooth-shaped covering or crown can be placed over a damaged tooth.
  • Dental Fillings. If there are holes in your teeth due to cavities, dental fillings can help repair these holes.
  • Dental Implants. When your damaged tooth needs to be removed, dental implants, also known as artificial teeth, can be added to your mouth to fill in a gap. 
  • Root Canals. This dental procedure may be recommended if your tooth has become inflamed or infected.

How to Prevent Sugar-Related Tooth Decay

While there are treatment options available, adopting a preventative approach will be most beneficial to your oral and overall health long-term. Consider incorporating these practices into your daily routine.

  • Limit added sugars in your diet. While eliminating sugars completely is difficult, limiting the amount you consume on a daily or weekly basis can do wonders for your health. Check food labels to understand how much added sugar is in the products you’re consuming.
  • Be consistent and thorough with your dental routine. This means properly brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing effectively at least once a day.
  • Use fluoride toothpaste and anticavity mouthwash. Fluoride toothpaste can aid in the remineralization of tooth enamel and anticavity mouthwash can help clear away food particles and the sugar left on your teeth, helping you avoid cavities. 
  • Visit your dentist every six months. Don't skip your semi-annual dental appointments. During your session, your teeth are thoroughly cleaned and your dentist will examine the health of your teeth, especially to see if sugar is causing any unwanted damage. Your dentist can recommend additional preventative steps and if a cavity is detected, can offer solutions to help halt the decay.

Make Your Teeth Strong Against Sugar With a Kimball & Beecher Dentist

Whether you're concerned about sugar-related tooth decay or simply want a new family-friendly dentist for your children, Kimball & Beecher is the right choice for all of your needs. Schedule an appointment with us and discover why families all over Iowa love their Kimball & Beecher dental experience.

About The Author

Dr. Beau Beecher, DDS

Dr. Beau Beecher is the founder and CEO, of Kimball and Beecher Family Dentistry. Kimball and Beecher Family Dentistry is known for being a patient-centered practice that puts comfort and convenience first. Over 50,000 patients in Iowa cities travel miles to experience the high level of ... read more

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