Just One Sugary Treat Can Still Cause Tooth Decay

woman sipping sugary drink latte

As dental professionals, we feel like broken records telling people to reduce the amount of sugar in their diets to reduce tooth decay. We know we’ve gotten through to some of you and you have made important changes, such as cutting back your sugary latte or soda pop consumption to just one per day followed by a thorough tooth brushing. But some of you who have made these positive changes are still shocked when we tell you that you we’re still finding new cavities.

We assure you, the dentist isn’t making it up when new cavities appear. What we’ve realized is there’s a gap in the information we’re giving you about sugary treats. Here’s the missing piece: it’s not always how much sugar you consume, but how you consume it that leads to tooth decay!

This is what the dentist knows that all patients should know too: sustained sugar consumption, even in moderation, over a long period of time can damage your oral health.

For example, you stop by the coffee shop on the way to work and pick up your favorite caramel latte and sip on it gradually from 8am until 11am, at which point you brush your teeth. Sure, your teeth are nice and clean now, but for the previous 3 hours you’ve been continuously bathing your teeth in sugar, providing a feast for the bacteria in your mouth. And those bacteria aren’t going to politely wait until you brush your teeth at 11am to start making holes in your tooth enamel or get under your gums and become gingivitis.

This same concept holds true for soda pop or a baggie of fruit-flavored candies. If you’re going to enjoy any sugary treats, make sure you consume it fairly quickly to avoid exposing your teeth to sugar for a long period of time. Of course, brushing right afterward is still a good habit. But if you don’t have access to a toothbrush right away, drinking plain non-carbonated water can help flush away at least some of the sugar.

So remember, moderation is important both in terms of quantity of sugary treats and how long it takes you to eat or drink them!

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