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  • Angela Murphy, RDH

Eat Right. Smile Bright!


Tooth decay is not necessarily caused by dietary sugar sitting on tooth surfaces BUT rather sugar in the diet depletes nutrition. It creates acidity in the mouth and intestinal track--which may lead to decay.

Most sugars in the diet are in processed foods and drink:

  • sugar & chocolate confectionary

  • cakes, biscuits, buns, fruit pies, pastries

  • puddings, fruit yoghurts, ice cream

  • table sugar

  • sugared breakfast cereals

  • fruit in syrup

  • fresh fruit juice and smoothies

  • any fizzy drinks

  • sugared milk drinks, milkshakes, cocoa

  • sugar containing alcoholic drinks

  • dried fruits e.g. raisins, apricots

  • syrups and sauces

Watch out for hidden sugars found in foods for example:

  • supermarket sushi

  • breakfast cereals (including hot cereals like flavored oatmeal)

  • Commercial smoothies (or any smoothie made with high concentrated fruit juice)

  • Low calorie drinks like coffee, energy drinks, blended juices and teas

  • All kinds of bread (even “whole grains” kinds)

  • Condiments and salad dressings

  • Tinned baked beans

  • Muffins + snack/granola bars

  • Reduced fat yogurt/flavored kefir/frozen yogurt

  • Protein bars + meal replacements

  • Frozen waffles or pancakes

  • Bottled sauces, dressings, condiments + marinades (like tomato sauce, ketchup, relish or teriyaki, for example)

  • Dried fruit and other fruit snacks

  • Restaurant foods--where sugar is used in sauces, various desserts and dressings for extra flavor

Look at the ingredients list on foods, anything ending in -OSE means sugar. e.g. maltose, glucose, sucrose, fructose etc.

Particularly watch out for sugar in antacid tablets, cough/throat sweets, breath mints and any sweets that dissolve slowly in the mouth. These can be particularly damaging.

Fizzy drinks, fruit juice and smoothies will all cause decay and acid erosion. Try to only have these drinks at a meal. Drink tap water or tea/coffee without sugar in between meals.

Fresh fruit should be eaten at meal times ideally. Some fruits such as bananas cause a lot of decay and citrus fruits can cause decay and acid erosion of the teeth.

It is important to eat 5 portions of fruit or vegetables every day.

Too much sugar is also bad for your general health as well as your teeth. Too much sugar can lead to obesity, diabetes and some cancers.

Top Tips

  • Don’t snack in between meals.

  • If you have to snack the best foods are savoury such as: raw carrots, cucumber, celery and peppers, chunk of cheese or nuts and seeds.

  • Drink plain tap water or tea/coffee without sugar in between meals.

  • Don’t eat sugary foods within an hour of bedtime.

  • Chewing sugar free gum after eating may help to increase the salivary flow which helps the teeth to repair themselves.


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