Science Questions

Is it more tooth-friendly to suck, or crunch a sweet?

Wed, 24th Jul 2013

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Question

"Slack, Steve" asked:

Is it better for your teeth to suck a sweet until it's gone, or to crunch it?

 

The former method I would think allows the sugar to be in your mouth for longer, but the latter leaves sticky bits of sweet stuck to your teeth..

 

Question applies to wine gums and to boiled sweets!

 

Thanks!

 

Steve Slack

 

Answer

Hannah - So, suck or chew? Which one is best for your teeth? Cambridge University dentist Mike Williams who’s also a Senior Clinical teacher at Guys Hospital London wrote in with this…

Mike - Okay, so when you eat foods that contain sugar, the bacteria in your mouth utilise this sugary substrate as their food and as a by-product, they produce acid. It’s this acid which causes your teeth to decay. The bacteria will go on producing acid for about 20 to 30 minutes after the sweet thing has gone. This is referred to as an acid attack and during this period, the teeth are in an environment where they might decay. They might not decay, but everything is in place that would allow that to happen. Thus, the frequency with which sweet things are eaten is important. If another sweet thing is eaten say, 10 or 15 minutes later, there’ll be another acid attack and another, and another, and so on. Here, the acid attacks will merge into one big acid attack and the teeth will certainly decay. So, when sucking the sweets slowly, it means that sugar is available for a longer period of time. The acid attack would be as long as the sweet was in your mouth plus 20 to 30 minutes.

Hannah - Thanks, Mike and Richard Crosby, a Dentist in Norwich agrees, adding this caveat…

Richard - The person who ekes their sweets out and sucks them for a long length of time is likely to be doing more damage than the person who crunches them up and gets rid of them in a short space of time. I think the only other thing to bear in mind is that crunching sweets could cause some physical damage rather than the bacterial damage from decay. So, you might find that if you are crunching hard sweets and you’ve got compromised teeth, you might actually be chipping bits off your teeth as well.

Hannah - So, if you're eating sweet sugary things, try to guzzle on them as quickly as possible, but be careful not to crack your teeth, and try to clean your teeth directly after eating. 

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