The main cause of tooth loss is tooth decay (also known as dental caries) and one of the most significant factors in the start of tooth decay is what we eat. The diet we consume can also play a significant role in erosion of teeth as well as the development of defects in the tooth structure.

Dietary sugars and teeth

Sugar is undoubtedly a large factor in tooth decay. It is believed that the following factors are able to alter the effect of sugar on Nutrition and healthy teethtooth decay:

  • Frequency of sugar consumption;
  • Timing of sugar ingestion; and
  • Consistency (stickiness) of the sugar.
  • Sugar consumed as snacks between meals is associated with a marked increase in tooth decay;
  • Tooth decay is greatest if consumed in the form of sticky sugar-containing candies;
  • Tooth decay activity may vary greatly among individuals; and
  • Tooth decay will decline with the withdrawal of sugar-rich foods.

Dietary factors that protect teeth

    • Plaque pH studies have shown that consuming cheese following a sugary snack virtually abolishes the usual fall in pH that is associated with sugars consumption.
    • Cows' milk contains calcium, phosphorus and casein all of which are thought to inhibit tooth decay.
    • Sugar alcohols including sorbitol, mannitol and xylitol have a much lower calorie content compared with sugars such as sucrose and have been recognised as having a low caries-producing potential. They are often used in chewing gum.
    • In line with the overall positive health effects of breastfeeding, those children who have been breastfed have lower rates of tooth decay.
    • Black tea, which contains fluoride, appears to be beneficial for resisting tooth decay due to the large benefits of fluoride in our diet.
Nutrition and healthy teeth