Added sugar consumption leads to cavities, gum disease, obesity

The May issue of the Journal of Dental Research published a study of the effect added sugar consumption had on children in São Luís, Brazil, with the findings suggesting that tooth decay (caries) and gum diseases are associated with each other.

Added sugar consumption is also tied to obesity and chronic inflammation according to the article, titled “Added Sugar Consumption and Chronic Oral Disease Burden among Adolescents in Brazil. ” Researchers at the University of Maranhão in São Luís conducted the study.

The cross-sectional study covered a random sample of adolescents enrolled at public high schools in São Luís, with the final study sample consisting of 405 adolescents.

Among other research methods, added sugar consumption was measured, through a questionnaire, by the ingestion of candy, soft drinks, cookies and chocolates. Consumption was obtained by multiplying the weekly and daily frequency of ingestion for each food.

The adolescents were observed for bleeding on probing (number of sites on the gums with bleeding on examination with a periodontal probe), probing depth (number of sites with probing depth larger than 4 millimeters), cavities (number of decayed teeth) and the number of sites with visible plaque.

“Our findings support our first hypothesis that chronic oral diseases correlate with one another,” said the researchers of the study. “Added sugar consumption resulted in higher chronic oral disease burden values. This finding supports our second hypothesis that added sugar consumption is a common factor associated with chronic oral diseases. A study that evaluated caries and periodontal diseases separately among children and adolescents concluded that these oral conditions are correlated with unhealthy nutrition patterns and obesity.”

The mechanism linking sugar to decayed teeth involves a local effect in dental biofilm (dental plaque), decreasing the pH and causing mineral loss in teeth, the researchers said.

The study is available by visiting

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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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Tips for a Healthy Diet

  • Foods high in sugar are a particularly common cause of tooth decay. Making these foods a treat rather than a staple will help protect your teeth.

  • To maintain a balanced diet, eat a variety of foods from each of the five major food groups.

  • When choosing a snack, go for nutritious foods such as cheese, raw vegetables, plain yogurt or a piece of fruit.