Tooth decay and hidden sugars

Tooth decay due to hidden sugars

As most people probably realize, the number one culprit causing dental decay is sugary food and drink. But how many of us know how much sugar is present in everyday foods that we are consuming and feeding our children? Well, let me say that not many do. In fact a lot of us will be shocked to know just how much of this stuff is in our daily diet. We all know that too much sugar is bad for us and sugar is a major contributing factor in health problems such as diabetes, obesity and, not to mention, dental decay in adults and children across the globe. In my first blog, I would like to shed some light on this important topic – how much sugar is bad for us and how much sugar is actually hidden in food and drink we consume on a regular basis.

We currently consume far too much sugar in our diets. Reducing free sugars intake to less than 10% of total daily energy intake was recommended by the WHO (World Health Organization) Study Group for the first time in 1989 and was further elaborated by a joint WHO Expert Consultation in 2002. The new updated WHO guideline calls for further reduction of free sugars to less than 5% of total energy intake if possible. This 5% limit is far below the current intake. Worldwide intake of free sugars varies by age, setting and country. In Europe ,for example, intake in adults ranges from about 7-8% in countries like Hungary and Norway, to 16-17% in countries like Spain and the United Kingdom(2). In Australia, according to the University of Sydney study, more than three-quarters (76.2 per cent) of the population exceeded this limit. (3)

Sugar Rich Foods and drinks

  1. Most 600 ml bottles of soft drink have around 18 teaspoons of sugar, while most cans contain around eight teaspoons of sugar.
  2. Breakfast cereals- This might come as a surprise to many health conscious people . Whenever you see Honey or Sultanas in the name of a cereal, it’s usually a good idea to carefully check the sugar content. As an example, here are some of the popular cereals and their sugar content- Kelloggs Froot Loops 41.7% , Kelloggs Frosties 41.3% , Kelloggs Cocoa Pops 36.7% , Nestle Nesquick 31.7% , Nestle Milo 31.3%. (4)
  3. Ketchup- Sometimes the food doesn’t need to be sweet to be loaded with sugar. A single tablespoon of ketchup contains 1 teaspoon of sugar.
  4. Sports Drinks- Sports drinks can often be mistaken as a healthy choice for those who exercise. However, sports drinks are designed to hydrate and fuel trained athletes during prolonged, intense periods of exercise. For this reason, they contain high amounts of added sugars that can be quickly absorbed and used for energy. In fact, a standard 20-oz (570 ml) bottle of a sports drink will contain 32 grams of added sugar and 159 calories, which is equivalent to 8 teaspoons of sugar (5).
  5. Canned Baked Beans- Baked beans are another savory food that is often surprisingly high in sugar. A cup (254 grams) of regular baked beans contains about 5 teaspoons of sugar.
  6. Cereal Bars- For on-the-go breakfasts, cereal bars can seem like a healthy and convenient choice. However, like other “health bars,” cereal bars are often just candy bars in disguise. Many contain very little fiber or protein and are loaded with added sugar(5).
Amount of sugar in common foods
Amount of sugar in common food items
Source: Sydney Morning Heraldl

Evidence suggests that dental caries is one of the most prevalent preventable disease affecting people globally. It has serious implications for health and results in huge amount of expense for treatments such as Fillings, Root canals, Extractions and Implant therapies. Taking due diligence in eating the right type of foods , maintaining good oral hygiene and visiting your dentist regularly can result in healthy teeth and gums for a beautiful smile.


  1. National Diet and Nutrition Survey Results from Years 1, 2, 3 and 4 (combined) of the Rolling Programme. 2008/2009 – 2011/2012.
  2. WHO website –
  3. Sydney Morning Herald –
  4. Teaspoon guide to Australian Breakfast cereals –
  5. Authority Nutrition –

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