Overconsumption of Sugar and the Global Rise of Dental Disease

***UPDATED: December 16, 2017*** New research from the University of Sydney has found that one in seven teens are still drinking more than two cups of sugar-sweetened beverages per day, according to a recent Dental Tribune article. Scientists monitored the daily consumption of sugary drinks of 3,671 school-aged students, noting an association between different types of sugar-sweetened drinks and oral health impacts. With the exception of fruit juice, all sugar-sweetened beverages were associated with frequent toothache or food avoidance.

“Bad teeth can have significant and lasting social and health impacts. It can cause considerable pain and suffering, and changing what people eat alters their speech and quality of life,” said lead author and Senior Research Fellow, Dr. Louise Hardy.

Hardy also stated that strategies must be implemented to reduce the consumption of sugary drinks, not only because of oral health issues, but also because of weight issues. One of the strategies being discussed is a sugar tax that is heavily debated, but Hardy believes this new study could add gravitas to the cause.


A recent study out of Germany, and published in the Journal of Dental Research, has shown that the overconsumption of sugar isn’t just a problem in the United States, but a global issue that needs attention. Researchers used data from 168 countries on the prevalence of cavities, periodontitis and tooth loss, the diseases burden and the costs of treatment as it correlates to sugar consumption. The findings were nothing short of startling.

According to a recent article from the Dental Tribune, the study took into consideration both free sugars and hidden sugars, which are found in many processed products like soft drinks, ketchup, ice cream and frozen foods, as well as breads, pastries and cakes. After analyzing all the data, the scientists concluded that the bill for this global sweet tooth was about $17.2 billion in 2010. Let that soak in.

“The data shows a clear correlation between the consumption of sugar and the incidence of caries, periodontitis and, as a result, tooth loss,” said the lead author, Dr. Toni Meier from Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU). “For every additional 25 grams of sugar consumed per person and day – which amounts to roughly eight sugar-cubes or a glass of sweetened lemonade – the costs of dental treatment in high-income countries increase on average by 100 US dollars (75 euros) per person and year.”

Germany, Switzerland, Denmark and the US were among the countries with the highest cost per person per year, averaging €210 (US$281), €300 (US$402), €178 (US$238) and €138 (US$185), respectively. In Germany, it was found that between 90 and 110 g of sugar was consumed per person per day in 2010. Guatemala, Mauritania and Mexico were found to have the highest levels of sugar-related dental illness.

“Newly industrialized countries such as India, Brazil and Mexico, but also Pakistan and Egypt, could avoid an excessive burden of illness and of health care costs by anchoring the topic in their health and nutritional policies at an early stage,” said study co-author Prof. Gabriele Stangl from MLU.

Because most processed products available contain a large amount of added sugars, it’s becoming more and more difficult to follow a low-sugar diet. The way forward, according to the researchers is to balance a mix of educational efforts and food policy initiatives, along with innovative technological solutions to minimize the burden of nutrition-related illnesses.

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