If you or your kids consume too much sugar in your diets, you could be putting your oral health at risk.
Sugar feeds bacteria living in plaque on the teeth, which can cause tooth decay and gum disease among other health problems. The more sugar you consume in food and drink – and the more frequently throughout the day – the more your teeth will be at risk.
To lower your health risks and look after your teeth, look for all the ways you can cut down on sugar in your diet and make sure you follow good oral hygiene every day.
How much sugar is too much?
It's recommended that adults and children don't get more than 10% of their daily energy intake from sugar. For the average person, this means:
- Age 4-6 – 19 grams (5 cubes) of sugar per day
- Age 7-10 – 24 grams (6 cubes)
- Age 11+ – 30 grams (7 cubes)
Most Australians consume more sugar than is recommended for a balanced diet. Most of this comes from sugary drinks and sweet snacks or desserts rather than meals. Eliminating these discretionary foods and drinks from your diet and looking for healthier alternatives can help to bring down your sugar intake and protect your family's teeth.
- Choose wholegrain breakfast cereals or porridge over cereals coated in sugar or honey.
- Do you sprinkle sugar on your cereal? Try a topping of fresh fruit or natural honey instead.
- If you prefer toast, swap sugary jam or honey for banana slices or low-fat cream cheese.
- Check the nutrition and ingredient labels of food packaging in the store and choose products that are low in sugar or have less added sugar.
- Ingredients are listed according to how much is in the product. If you see sugars near the top of the list, this means the food is high in sugar.
- Be aware that added sugars may be listed in a number of different ways, including corn syrup, fructose, glucose, maltose and sucrose.
- Choose fresh fruit over cakes, muffins, sweets and other sugary snacks. Whole fruit contains natural sugars that are less likely to cause tooth decay.
- If you buy tinned fruit, look for fruit stored in water rather than in syrup.
- Choose plain natural yoghurt or low-sugar yoghurt and puddings.
- Soft drinks, energy drinks, fruit juices and cordials are major sources of sugar in the Australian diet, especially for kids and teenagers. A typical 375ml can of soft drink contains about 9 teaspoons of sugar.
- Instead of sugar drinks, choose plain water. If you live in a fluoridated area like most Australians, drinking tap water that contains a small amount of fluoride can help to protect your teeth against decay.
- Milk contains calcium which also helps to protect your teeth against plaque and decay by strengthening the enamel.
How to take care of your teeth
As well as following a healthy diet, it's important to look after your teeth by keeping plaque and decay at bay. You can do this by:
- Brushing your teeth twice a day, using a manual or electric toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste
- Brushing for 2 minutes each time, spending 30 seconds in each quarter of your mouth
- Replacing your toothbrush or electric toothbrush head every 3 months
- Flossing between your teeth using dental floss or an interdental brush
- Drinking plenty of water to rinse your mouth and stay hydrated
- Not smoking or drinking too much alcohol
- Visiting your dentist for regular check-ups and teeth cleaning
If you're due for a check-up and clean, or you want to talk to a dentist for advice, get in touch with our team at Face Value Dental.
 Healthdirect. How to cut down on sugar [Online] 2018 [Accessed March 2019] Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/cutting-down-on-sugars
 NHS. Sugar swaps for kids [Online] 2016 [Accessed March 2019] Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/change4life/food-facts/sugar/sugar-swaps-for-kids
 Better Health Channel. Dental care - fluoride [Online] 2012 [Accessed March 2019] Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/dental-care-fluoride
 Better Health Channel. Calcium [Online] 2013 [Accessed March 2019] Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/HealthyLiving/calcium
 Healthdirect. Dental care [Online] 2017 [Accessed March 2019] Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/dental-care