Making Sense Of Sugar

Dental Health

Sugar and dental health: all things in moderation

Sugars are a type of ‘fermentable carbohydrate’ – this also includes some starches. A ‘fermentable carbohydrate’ is a carbohydrate that can be broken down by the bacteria in your mouth.

Any food or drink that contains ‘fermentable carbohydrates’ can be broken down by the bacteria in your mouth to produce acid. This acid can then dissolve away some of the enamel surface of your teeth leading to decay.

Your body has a natural defence for this attack – saliva – it can remineralise or rebuild very early damage to our tooth enamel but this takes time. The number of times you subject your teeth to an acid attack (in other words eating or drinking!) and the amount you consume can have an impact on your dental health.

You can minimise your risk of tooth decay by brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and by making sure if you enjoy sugary foods and drinks, you do so with meals, rather than as a snack (17) (18). Don’t forget that teeth shouldn’t be brushed straight after you have eaten as it can increase the chance of enamel erosion. Visiting your dentist on a regular basis also helps for good dental health.


  • Since the 1970s rates of tooth decay have fallen significantly following the introduction of fluoride toothpaste.
  • The best time to clean your teeth is first thing in the morning (ideally before you eat) and last thing at night before you go to bed (make sure you do it for at least two minutes!).