Reducing sugar intake can prevent dental disease

Sugar is well recognised as by far the most important dietary factor in the development of dental caries, the leading cause of tooth loss. The bacteria in our mouths combines with sugar from the food and drink we consume to produce acid. When we eat too much sugar too often, this acid will dissolve the tooth enamel and dental cavities and eventually tooth extraction.

A startling 50% of children aged 12 years old have tooth decay in their adult teeth [1]. Dental research now supports reducing sugar intake to as low as 3% of total daily energy intake [2]. This is below the level recommended by the WHO and reflects the unequivocal link between sugar consumption and tooth decay.  

1] AIHW & Dental Statistics & Research Unit, Australian Reasearch Centre for Population Oral Health, University Of Adelaide.  

2] Sheiham A & James W.P.T (2014) A new understanding of the relationship between sugars, dental caries and fluoride use: implications for limits on sugars consumption. This review provides evidence to support sugar as the most important dietary factor in the development of tooth decay, and highlights the cumulative effect of sugar consumption over a lifetime on dental health. When teeth were exposed to sugars for more than three years, tooth decay or cavities occurred in teeth of children when sugar intakes were relatively low, just 2–3% of the total daily energy intake.  


3] Moynihan P & Kelly S. (2014) Effect on caries of restricting sugars intake: systematic review to update WHO guidelines. This comprehensive systematic review investigated the association between sugar intake and tooth decay. The findings show a clear and consistent causal relationship between free sugar and tooth decay in adults and children. Of the studies reviewed, all of those in adults and most of the studies in children reported a positive association between sugars and tooth decay. 

4] Ruottinen S, Karjalainen S, Pienihakkinen K, Lagstrom H, Niinikoski H, Salminen M, Ronnemaa T, Simell O (2004) Sucrose intake since infancy and dental health in 10-year-old children.

This study compared tooth decay status in children with high sugar consumption; exceeding the WHO recommended level of 10% of energy intake, with those with the lowest sugar intake. They reported that those children in the low-sugar intake group had on average 50% less dental disease experience than children in the high-sugar-intake group.