Sugar! Do we have to eliminate it for healthy teeth?


Halloween candy stockpiles, cookies, and sweet treats power the end-of-the-year holiday season, but there is always the question of how can we enjoy our favorite sugar-filled food and drinks while still being conscious of our health.

Completely cutting sugar out of our diets is not realistic or sustainable. Trust me, dentists love candy too! There are ways to enjoy our favorite sweet treats in moderation while keeping our oral health in mind.

Many of our days start with coffee and if you're anything like me, my coffee is more cream and sugar than actual coffee. When we sip on sugary drinks over a long period, the sugar continues to sit in our mouth and feed bacteria. The bacteria then produce acid that eats away at our teeth resulting in cavities. Do not let “sugar free” beverages trick you. Soda, whether sugar-free or not, energy drinks, juices, lemonade, and sports drinks create an acidic environment in our mouth. While sipping on any of those drinks for long, the pH in your mouth drops and the acidity erodes the outer layer of your teeth. Once that outer layer is gone, it is gone, there is no going back. That erosion can lead to sensitivity, but more importantly, it leaves the teeth more susceptible to cavities.

Alternating with plain water between our sweet treats and drinks is crucial. The water neutralizes the acidity in the mouth and begins to wash away the sugar.

Brushing and flossing is the gold standard, but I understand with busy schedules that a toothbrush break is not always feasible.

Another tip for drinking beverages is to use a straw. The straw helps bypass your front teeth, creating less contact time with the acidic beverage. A straw can help minimize contact with the teeth but cannot eliminate the beverage's acidity, so do not forget to rinse with plain water between sips.

As a dentist, I want you to remember a few things: when we say “no more sugar” what we mean is you can still enjoy your favorite candy bar and soda pop, but keep in mind the moderation and duration of those mid-day pick-me-ups and after-dinner treats.

About the Author

Author Anne Koehne, DMD
Title General Dentist