“Why does my sweet tooth never listen to my wisdom tooth!?” – asks a sweet joke on the internet. People’s struggles with sugar cannot be described better than that. We know sugar is addictive and has numerous negative effects on our general and oral health. However, we still love it. How toxic is this love? Do we know all about it?
We asked 4639 respondents globally to share their views on popular myths and facts about sweets and their effect on teeth. See their answers on matters such as:
- Is chocolate really the worst candy for teeth?
- Is it true that one cannot control their sweet tooth?
#1: Sugar-free candy is harmless for teeth: MYTH
A hooping 43% of DentaVox respondents believe that sugar-free candy does no harm to their oral health.
We wish that was true… Scientists from the Melbourne University’s Oral Health Cooperative Research Centre tested different sugar-free soft drinks, sports drinks, and sweets and found that due to their chemical composition, many of them can be just as bad for teeth. Although they might not directly lead to cavities, researchers claim, the primary problem is their inherently high acidic level that still destroys tooth enamel. More research is needed to collect enough data to directly compare the long-term effects of the well-studied sugar to these of sweeteners’ intake.
#2: Brushing removes all traces of sugar from your teeth: MYTH
Slightly over 40% of survey participants think that once the toothbrush works its miracles on teeth, there will be no trace of sugar anymore.
In fact, dental hygiene is crucial but just brushing always leaves microparticles behind. Flossing and rinsing with mouthwash bring the sugar fight further but even then – professional tooth cleaning is needed regularly.
#3: Chocolate is the worst candy for your teeth: MYTH
Over half of DentaVox interviewees believe that chocolate is the worst candy in terms of oral health impact.
It may seem surprising but this is a myth. Chocolate is much easier to brush and wash off the teeth, and dark chocolate bars specifically have much less sugar than a lot of other sweets. Take a piece or two now and then to enjoy it with a clear conscience. See what are your worst enemies from the Sweets’ Kingdom.
#4: Sugar is more harmful to baby teeth than to permanent teeth: SO-SO
Nearly 60% of DentaVox respondents agree with this statement. But it’s more controversial than that.
Firstly, sugar is provenly harmful to both baby and adult teeth. It’s what the cavity-causing bacteria feed on. One slight benefit that we adults have is that if our teeth decay severely, we can much easier restore or completely replace them. Fillings for children are popular, but root canal treatments or crowns – not so. In a lot of cases, if the infection has reached the roots or has affected a larger part of the surface, the child’s tooth would be extracted. This, however, can cause unnatural misalignment of the erupting teeth. For all of these reasons, sealants on children’s teeth are getting more and more popular as a cavity prevention measure for baby teeth.
#5: Rinsing with water helps wash away sugar: FACT
Surprisingly, just 55% of interviewed people think that water helps wash away sugar. In fact, it does. And it’s highly recommended to rinse with water after eating anything sweet.
It is surely not enough to remove all the sugar from your mouth but it helps with keeping less sugar on teeth.
#6: People with some genes are more likely to have a sweet tooth: FACT
But what if our love for sweets is genetically coded? Interestingly, 65% of DentaVox survey participants believe in this fact.
And it’s not untrue. Researchers from the University of Copenhagen genotyped and examined more closely two variants of the FGF21 gene that had been previously linked to higher consumption of carbs – FGF21 rs838133 and rs838145. The study found that people with either of the two variants were 20% more likely to regularly eat large amounts of sweets.
#7: You cannot control your sweet tooth: MYTH
So if our love for sweets can be genetically coded, does that mean we simply cannot control our cravings? A whole lot of people – 42% – think so.
Science disagrees. Genetic predisposition to liking sweets more affects just a minor part of people and not with a higher chance. Moreover, a study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience found out that it’s the brain’s desire for readily available calories – not sweetness – that creates a desire for sugars. Sugar-containing foods provide a quick boost of energy so the brain is easily convinced to say “yes” to them. So are there some ways to trick our brain into believing that we don’t need that sweet? Here are some strategies to try on.
#8: Candy harms teeth more than snacks and chips: SO-SO
The majority of DentaVox respondents (76%) are convinced that sugar is more harmful to teeth than snacks and chips.
Candy certainly steals the show, but it’s not the only treat that causes oral health problems. Conventionally produced snacks and chips are usually also packed with sugar and acids. They often have coatings that stick to teeth for longer, thus damaging them even more.
#9: Some studies suggest that dark chocolate may be good for teeth: FACT
That would be good news, wouldn’t it? Nearly 40% of interviewees think that researchers have backed up the benefits of dark chocolate for teeth. And they are not far away from the truth.
For example, researchers from Chennai, India found out that “the amount of theobromine in a 1-ounce dark chocolate bar has a better effect on tooth hardness than a 1.1% prescription sodium fluoride treatment”. Another study conducted by a laboratory team in Japan identified that compounds in the cocoa bean husk have antibacterial properties and also fight against plaque. Deeper and more long-term research data is needed to determine the actual extent of those benefits, though, after weighing them with potential risks.
Until then: Always keep in mind that dark chocolate doesn’t refer to the color only; the actual definition means cocoa content above 70%. Remember also that the other 30% are still sugar and milk. The rarer you treat yourself to sugar, the better.
#10: It’s better to consume sugar little and often than in one big dose: MYTH
Over half of our respondents are sure that eating sugary foods often but in small doses is better than eating a lot of it at once.
While eating a whole cake at once might be worse for weight, continually picking at sugary treats has far worse consequences for your teeth.
Each time you consume sweet or starchy food, the bacteria in your mouth feed off it and harm the enamel, increasing the risk of cavities. This active attack is usually over in an hour. If then you eat something sweet again, the process starts anew and exposes your teeth to a higher chance of decay.
Which of those myths and facts were you aware of?
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Stats source: DentaVox
20 Questions: Sweet Tooth
Base: 4639 respondents (global sample)