The holiday season is here, and that means one thing is going to be within reach for months—sugar. From Halloween candy, pumpkin pies at Thanksgiving to Christmas cookies, sugary foods and drinks are everywhere during the latter part of the year. Consuming too much sugar can have a major negative impact on both your oral health and overall wellness. The North American Association of Facial Orthotropics wants to make sure you’re aware of these dangers.

Sugar fuels the harmful bacteria in your mouth.

Your mouth contains all kinds of different bacteria—some good and some bad. The bad bacteria cause tooth decay and cavities. They excrete acids that wear away at your tooth enamel, the protective outer layer of your tooth structure that serves as a barrier against decay. If you consume too much sugar this process accelerates.

Sugar serves as a “super fuel” for these harmful bacteria. These bacteria thrive on sugar, and they excrete higher quantities of the acids that deteriorate your enamel, removing minerals and weakening it. Your mouth replenishes some of this mineral damage through the flow of saliva, but if you’re regularly consuming high amounts of sugar, your mouth can’t keep up with all of the damage being done. Eventually, the mineralization weakens and fails completely, forming a hole in the tooth that you know as a cavity. An untreated cavity only will get bigger, doing more damage to the tooth and possibly damaging it beyond repair.

Your diet matters when it comes to preventing tooth decay.

The more you snack on foods that are high in sugar, the more that your teeth are exposed to these sugars and the excreted acids that destroy your tooth enamel and lead to tooth decay. Even seemingly innocent snacks like chips, cracks, or pretzels can do as much damage as straight sugar. When consumed, these carb-loaded snacks break down into sugar, which then fuel bad bacteria. Instead, opt for low-sugar snacks such as nuts, cheese, and fruits and vegetables. A recent study conducted in Pakistan found that school children who regularly snacked on cookies and chips had a four times higher risk of developing cavities than children who chose other healthier options for their snacks.

The risk is just as great if you consume sugary beverages—whether you choose soft drinks like soda, juice, energy drinks, or sports drinks, they all have high sugar content. Most of these beverages are also highly acidic, which increases the amount of sugary acids on your teeth. Various research studies have shown the risk to your dental health from regularly consuming these sugary beverages. In fact, drinking more than two high-sugar beverages per day increases your risk of losing at least six permanent teeth by more than 300 percent.

Here’s how sugar affects your overall health.

Any food that contains carbohydrates also contains sugar, but not all sugar is bad. Whole foods like dairy, fruits, and vegetables contain natural sugars, which are better for your health. Fresh produce also is high in fiber, minerals, and antioxidants, while dairy is a good source for protein as well as calcium. The real health threat is from added sugar, added by manufacturers to increase flavor or as a preservative. Common American foods and drinks that fall under this category include soft drinks and juice, as mentioned above, along with flavored yogurt, many varieties of cereal, desserts like cookies and candy, and most types of processed foods. You also can find these added sugars in bread, cured meats, and even condiments like ketchup and store-bought salad dressings. Because these added sugars are prevalent in so many packaged foods, our society has become addicted to sugar. The National Cancer Institute estimates that each adult male in the U.S. consumes an average of 24 teaspoons of added sugar per day – that’s 4x the recommended maximum daily intake!

This is why obesity and diabetes are so prevalent, but the risks associated with high sugar consumption do not end there. Scientists at Harvard University authored a study published in 2014 by JAMA Internal Medicine. Studying participants over 15 years, these scientists determined that individuals who got between 17 and 21 percent of their calories from added sugar had a 38 percent increase of death caused by cardiovascular disease. High consumption of added sugar also increases your susceptibility to higher blood pressure and inflammation throughout your body. Excess sugar even can affect the way your brain functions. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition determined that eating a meal high on the glycemic index stimulated brain activity in the areas that control rewards and craving. This is why sugar is so addictive! It keeps you going back for more.

You can take steps to reduce your consumption of added sugars.

Start by reading the labels when shopping for food, and familiarizing yourself with the most common sources of added sugar: corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, malt sugar, honey, molasses, dextrose, glucose, lactose, maltose, and sucrose. Also, moderate and limit how much sugar you’re adding to your foods and drinks when preparing meals at home, especially in beverages like coffee and tea. You also should maintain a good regimen of dental hygiene that includes brushing twice per day, flossing daily, and seeing your dentist every six months for a check-up, which should entail having your teeth cleaned professionally and also examined. While we know that for most people it is not possible or even likely to forgo all sugar forever, it’s to the benefit of your oral and overall health that you limit your consumption of foods containing sugar.

The North American Association of Facial Orthotropics includes clinicians and technicians who believe that correct oral posture directly relates to the ideal development of the face and jaws. Correct oral posture can be achieved through Orthotropics®. More and more dentists currently are specializing in Orthotropics®, a treatment method that uses oral appliances to promote ideal facial growth guidance. To learn more about the overall benefits of Orthotropics®, visit the website of the North American Association of Facial Orthotropics at to find a practitioner near you. You also can send an email to [email protected].