Sugar is the leading cause of cavities, something sugar industry lobbyists tried to make sure you didn’t know. Unfortunately, it’s also undeniably delicious, which is why the average person struggles so much with reducing their sugar intake.
Sugar: Bad for Teeth, Bad for Health
Brushing and flossing is an important step in preventing cavities, but we can’t let it fool us into thinking all the sugar we’re eating isn’t still hurting our teeth — not to mention the rest of our bodies. Excessive sugar consumption can lead to cavities, diabetes, obesity, and a whole string of other health issues.
But even though it’s common knowledge that we should all be eating less sugar, the average American is still consuming more than twice the amount of sugar that the American Heart Association recommends — around 130 pounds a year! It’s no wonder that 91% of American adults have cavities.
It seems to be less an issue of education and more an issue of willpower. With sugary foods and drinks so widely and easily available, it’s easier than ever to exceed your recommended daily intake of sugar. That sugar limit that the American Heart Association recommends? A single Coke exceeds it.
Put a Tax on Your Cavities
Experts have been experimenting with ways to manufacture that missing willpower, and one of the more effective methods appears to be a sugar tax. More specifically, a tax on “sugar-sweetened beverages,” known in health circles simply as SSBs. Soft drinks alone make up 33% of Americans’ sugar consumption, and that doesn’t even include sports drinks or sweetened coffee!
Of course, that vanilla latte trying to give you cavities might become less attractive if it were taxed at 20%, which is exactly what Schwendicke and colleagues found in their economic evaluation. The team modeled the effects of a 20% tax on SSBs over the course of ten years, and their findings were promising: Despite the tax translating to mere cents per ounce, the evaluation suggested that a sugar tax would, in fact, measurably reduce cavities, particularly in young and low income populations.
Combined with Americans’ increasing avoidance of sugar and soda, this might help us turn the corner on our cavity pandemic.
Sugar Tax Faces Obstacles
Of course, it’s impossible to predict whether or not a sugar tax will actually come to fruition. The sugar industry would of course be opposed to any measure intended to reduce the sales of sugary products, and food manufacturers have traditionally worked against efforts to regulate sugar additives in foods. Despite the proven health benefits of lower sugar content, sugar sells, and implementing a tax on it with the stated goal of reducing sales of sugar-containing products would be a hard-fought battle.
So until that battle is fought and won, that willpower will have to come from within! It’s up to each person to regulate their own sugar consumption to prevent cavities. Drinking water instead of sugary drinks is an obvious answer, but if you really can’t put the caffeine down, you can at least try taking your coffee black, or drinking beverages sweetened with xylitol, which can help fight cavities.
Of course, it’s important to brush and floss regularly to get the sugary residue from your day’s food and drink off of your teeth. And in the end, no amount of dietary regulation, at-home toothbrushing, or even beverage tax can protect you from cavities more effectively than getting regular cleanings at your dentist! Contact us at