Is High Fructose Corn Syrup Worse for Your Teeth?

In recent years, people have expressed a lot of concern about high fructose corn syrup. In particular, people blame high fructose corn syrup’s presence in products, especially soda, for rising obesity rates and associated problems. such as diabetes and heart disease. However, many scientists say this is nonsense since the body responds basically the same way to sucrose and high fructose corn syrup.

People also blame high fructose corn syrup on the increases in cavities in children in the US and around the world. In response to all this negative attention for high fructose corn syrup (and rising sales of alternate versions with table sugar (sucrose) in them), soda manufacturers are releasing more versions of their products sweetened with sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup. But will this have an impact on tooth decay? Do oral bacteria respond to high fructose corn syrup the same way that they respond to sucrose?

Understanding the Different Types of Sugars

Sugars come in many forms. Fructose and sucrose differ because fructose is a monosaccharide, a simple sugar, while sucrose is a disaccharide, a complex sugar. There are three common kinds of simple sugars we commonly encounter in food: glucose (also called dextrose), fructose, and galactose. The names of these sugars come from the source of their discovery. For example, where does fructose come from? They discovered fructose in fruit, glucose in grain (note that it shares the same root as gluten), and galactose in milk.

Most foods contain a mixture of these sugars. Sucrose contains two different sugars put together: glucose and fructose. This is part of the reason why many scientists dispute the concern about high fructose corn syrup, which is 55% fructose and 45% glucose, as opposed to a 50-50 blend. But, no matter what scientists say about how the body metabolizes sucrose and corn syrup, the truth is that oral bacteria do process them differently.

How Oral Bacteria Respond to High Fructose Corn Syrup vs Sugar (Sucrose)

Most of the oral bacteria found in people’s mouths today have become adapted to feeding on sugars. This hasn’t always been the case, but it is today (and has been for thousands of years. As a result, they are well able to feed on glucose, fructose, and even lactose. Not all bacteria can consume lactose–it’s probably more likely for oral bacteria to adapt to this food source in the mouths of mammals.

But there’s a difference when some oral bacteria, like Streptococcus mutans, come into contact with sucrose. Sucrose gives these bacteria more energy because they not only get to break down the glucose and the fructose, they get to break the bond between them, which also releases energy. And with sucrose they can do something else–they can change it into a special sticky protein that they use to make their biofilms–what we commonly call plaque–which glues them to our teeth and protects them from saliva.

So is high fructose corn syrup worse than sugar? In other words, no matter what the effects of high fructose corn syrup on the body, sucrose is probably worse for your teeth. So if you have to have a soda, and you don’t notice the difference, choose the one with high fructose corn syrup if you are looking to minimize damage to your teeth. As the final debate of corn syrup vs sugar, if you care about your teeth, high fructose corn syrup is the better choice.

Foods With High Fructose Corn Syrup

Now that you know high fructose corn syrup is better for your teeth than traditional sugar, you might wonder which foods you can find it in. Surprisingly, a lot of food items sneak in high fructose corn syrup instead of sugar because it’s cheaper to use. Next time you’re grocery shopping, check out the labels of your favorite foods. It might surprise you.

  • Soda
  • Candy
  • Sweetened Yogurt
  • Salad Dressing
  • Frozen Junk Food
  • Bread
  • Canned Fruit
  • Juice
  • Boxed Dinners
  • Granola Bars
  • Breakfast Cereal
  • Store-Bought Baked Goods
  • Sauces and Condiments
  • Snack Foods
  • Cereal Bars
  • Coffee Creamer
  • Sports and Energy Drinks
  • Jam and Jelly
  • Ice Cream

You can probably guess our favorite sweet treat on this list, ice cream! Blue Bell ice cream is an American favorite and while we don’t recommend eating a diet high in sugar, even if it’s high fructose corn syrup, it’s hard to say no to ice cream in the summer. At the end of the day, we recommend enjoying sweets in moderation for the sake of your overall health, waistline, and teeth!

Protect and Repair Your Teeth with our Blue Bell Dentist’s Help

Whether you’re consuming soda with sugar or with high fructose corn syrup, regular check-ups and professional cleanings are the way to make sure you are really protecting your teeth from damage. And if you do suffer tooth damage, reconstructive dentistry can help restore them to health, fitness, and beauty with tooth-colored fillings or dental crowns. If you’re looking for a dentist in Philadelphia, please call (610) 272-0828 or book an appointment online at Dental Excellence of Blue Bell today.