3 min

Sugar describes a sweet substance that is mostly a rich source of carbohydrates. Sugar is available in different forms mixed with food to add a sweet flavor to them.

The word sugar originated from the Arabic word ‘sukkar’. A white crystalline substance is what we are mostly aware of as sugar but they are available in different forms.

These sugars commonly refer to the carbohydrates. A basic note on the types of carbohydrates is necessary to differentiate between them.

The simplest forms of sugars or carbohydrates are glucose, fructose, and galactose.

The other available form of sugar is a combination of the above like lactose- a combination of glucose and galactose, sucrose- a combination of fructose and glucose and maltose- a combination of glucose and sucrose.


  • Glucose – Present in our bloodstream, found abundantly in plants and animals.
  • Galactose – Dairy products.
  • Fructose – present in fruits and honey.
  • Lactose – Processed dairy products.
  • Sucrose – sugar beets/cane, available as table sugar.
  • Maltose – Fermented sugars like barley.


Among the available forms of sugars, most of them have associated actions on the teeth but some are beneficial while the others are harmful.

The effect of sugars on tooth decay or cavity formation directly depend on the following:

  • Amount of daily intake.
  • Form of the sugar like liquid or sticky foods.
  • Frequency of sugar consumption.

Thus, the above factors play a key role in the development of tooth decay with the intake of sugars.


It is the table sugar that we consume on a daily basis. The risk of tooth decay is more with the increase in frequency and amount of sugar.

As they are the key ingredient in our drinks, shakes, pastries to all the sweet substances we consume. It is the primary reason behind the increased occurrence of tooth decay.

They cause bacterial accumulation in the mouth and increasing the acidic levels causing tooth decay.


They are present in milk formulations and dairy products. They are responsible for tooth decay after sucrose. Unlike sucrose, they are less acidic and less cariogenic (decreased cavity formation).

But they have a countable amount accumulated in the plaque.


It is normally present in the saliva but it becomes a reason for cavity formation in teeth when the concentration increases.

Glucose levels increase in the saliva when there is uncontrolled diabetes, frequent consumption of sugars or decreased saliva.

They can cause some changes in the mouth like increase bacterial activity in the mouth, plaque formation, gum disease, and bad breath.

Apart from this, their involvement in tooth decay formation is directly related to time and general health maintenance.


It is one of the rich and healthier sources of sugar. These are present in fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, and honey. These are naturally occurring and can absolutely provide the amount of sugar we need.

Moreover, a combination of fructose with sucrose available as corn starch is considered harmful for teeth.

The natural form of fructose does not have any association with tooth decay formation.


The intake of galactose regularly indeed has positive effects in reducing the acidic levels of our body. Subsequently, studies revealed their effect in reducing the biofilm formation on the tooth surface.

They have a good effect in increasing the count of the good commensal bacteria in our mouth to neutralize and prevent the acidic activity in the mouth.


These are fermented sugars with no direct effect in tooth caries formation. On the contrary when they occur in combination with sucrose they can cause increased plaque accumulation and formation.


  • Stick to healthy oral hygiene habits.
  • Avoid Sugars causing cavities to the maximum.
  • Maintain a healthy dietary habit.
  • Make note of what type of sugar you consume.
  • Have a regular dental check-up.

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Dr Arun

Dr. Arun is a practicing dentist with more than 11 years of experience. Loves to blog and in constant search of new knowledge in dentistry and health niche.


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