Sugary drinks can be hazardous to your teeth, but do we know how much sugar is in our drinks? Do we realise that even “healthy” drinks can contain a lot of sugar? There has been a big trend in juicing and smoothie drinks, but these contain hidden sugars. Sugars found naturally in whole fruits are less likely to cause tooth decay, because sugars are contained within the structure of the fruit. When we blend and juice the fruit, the sugars are released and they can damage our teeth, especially when drank frequently. These drinks should be kept to mealtimes and try to limit fruit juices to a small (150ml) glass a day.
Fizzy drinks also have a lot of sugar. One can of Coca Cola can contain as much as 9 cubes of sugar. Not only do these fizzy drinks contain sugar, they also have acid in them that can damage tooth enamel, leading to erosion. The only safe drinks to have in between mealtimes are water and milk.
Adults should have no more than 30g of added sugar a day (roughly 7 sugar cubes). Children should have less, no more than 19g (5 sugar cubes) a day for children aged 4-6, and no more than 24g (6 sugar cubes) for children aged 7-10.
Instead of fizzy drinks or sugary diluting juices, opt for water or sugar-free, diet and “no added sugar” drinks. You can also try diluting fruit juice or “no added sugar” squash with carbonated water.
As mentioned above, natural sugars are also found in fruits. As well as fruit juice, sugars can also be found fruit that has been dried, and dried fruit can also stick to your teeth. Try to swap dried fruits (such as raisins, sultanas and currants) for fresh fruit in between meals, and enjoy dried fruit as part of a meal i.e breakfast or dessert. If having a tin of fruit, opt for “in own juice” instead of syrup.
When buying food and drink, look at the nutrition label. Under the heading there will be a section “Carbohydrates (of which sugars)” :-
- High – over 22.5g of total sugars per 100g.
- Low – 5g or less of total sugars per 100g.
Most foods now use a colour-coding or ‘traffic light’ system on the front of food packaging:-
- Red – high
- Amber – medium
- Green – low
Also look at the ingredient list, sugars may be listed under another name:-
- Cane Sugar
- Brown Sugar
- Corn Syrup
- High Fructose Corn Syrup
- Crystaline Sucrose
It is essential to have regular dental check-ups and good oral hygiene. There are many ways we can help prevent tooth decay.
For more info see https://www.nhs.uk/change4life-beta/campaigns/sugar-smart/home