Sugar is the general name for sweet, short-chain carbohydrates, such as monosaccharides and disaccharides. The short-chain carbohydrates are easily broken down by bacteria in our mouths to produce an acid that, when left sitting on your teeth, can cause cavities. Below are the five main types of sugar that are harmful to your teeth.
Sucrose is the most popular disaccharide meaning it is made of two small sugar units; in this case, glucose and fructose. Sucrose is naturally produced from plants like sugar beets, sugar cane, and maple trees. It is the sweetest sugar and can be found as regular table sugar and processed foods like in most candy, breakfast cereal, and canned foods. When sucrose is broken down in the mouth, it is converted into a glue-like substance that holds plaque to your teeth and makes it difficult to remove when flossing or brushing.
Glucose is a simple monosaccharide, which means it is a single unit that cannot be broken down into simple compounds, and it is a common building block for other carbohydrates. It can be found in many of the foods we eat and by itself in some foods, wines, and other drinks. Glucose is added to processed foods as dextrose extracted from cornstarch. Although glucose is harmful to your teeth, it is your body’s main source of energy.
Fructose is the fruit sugar, a single-chain carbohydrate naturally found in fruits, root vegetables, honey, and agave. Fructose is used in processed foods as high-fructose corn syrup, sourced from corn starch, sugar beets, and sugar cane. The sweetener is sweeter and cheaper than sucrose. It is liquid, making it easy to blend into sweetened beverages.
Maltose is made of two glucose molecules linked together. It is found in seeds and other parts of plants. You will find it in starchy grain foods like cereal, pasta, rice, and bread. While maltose is not as sweet as sucrose and fructose, it is used to make frozen desserts and hard candy due to its heat and cold tolerance abilities. You will also find it in beer, which not only has sugar but is in itself acidic enough to dissolve your teeth.
It is the milk sugar that is formed by galactose and glucose. You will find it in many dairy products like yogurt, milk, cheese, and ice-cream. It is not as sweet as the other sugars, but it ferments acid to our teeth. Because calcium-rich dairy products contain lactose, it does not mean they should be avoided, but instead regulated and whenever possible selected carefully.
All these types of sugar have nutritional benefits, and you don’t need to avoid them entirely. Eat them in moderation and practice good oral hygiene like rinsing your mouth regularly and brushing twice a day to minimize the risk of getting cavities. If you already have cavities, or would like help to maintain clean and healthy teeth, call to book a consultation. Have your questions answered by North View Dental’s friendly and professional staff.