Sugar, Its Partner In Crime And The Importance Of Reading Labels

Sugar, Its Partner In Crime And The Importance Of Reading Labels

Sugar is in many ways Public Enemy Number One of your teeth and dental health. The sweetest and arguably easiest to consume form of carbohydrate, sugar seems to be everywhere!


It’s important to realise that sugar itself is not the direct cause of dental diseases like tooth decay: there is an intermediary, a partner in crime, whose presence is the catalyst for sugar’s mayhem. I am of course talking about plaque bacteria, those millions of tiny germs that live in our mouths and who love to feed on sugars. After a sugary feast, these little critters release an organic acid into their surrounds: acid that is a metabolic byproduct of consuming sugar. The acid erodes the enamel, a process that eventually leads to a cavity in the tooth, also know as decay.

We like to tell the kids that the bacteria eat sugar and poo acid onto their teeth. That motivates a surprising number of kiddies to brush and floss more thoroughly!

The Many Names Of Sugar

Sugar comes in a surprising number of forms: it is almost a master of disguise. Some forms of sugar don’t sound like sugar at all: corn syrup, for example.

However, each and every one of these is a form of sugar and can feed the plaque bacteria and cause the release of acid onto the teeth and gums.

This list of sugars comes from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010

  • sugar
  • brown sugar
  • cane sugar
  • confectioners’ or powdered sugar
  • turbinado sugar
  • raw sugar
  • corn sweeteners
  • corn syrup
  • crystallized cane sugar
  • maltose
  • fructose
  • sucrose
  • glucose
  • dextrin
  • evaporated cane juice
  • fruit juice concentrate
  • honey
  • high fructose corn syrup
  • invert sugar
  • syrup
  • malt syrup
  • maple syrup
  • molasses


Food Labels

Food labels list the ingredients of the food product in order of weight, from the most to least. If one of these forms of sugars appears within the top three ingredients, then the food could be considered to be a high sugar food.

You can read more about sugars and the basics of nutrition in this article by the American Dental Association.