Sugar Causes Tooth Decay
and Many Other Problems, Too

Tooth decay is a widespread problem in Western societies.

It involves the degradation of enamel and dentin and can result in problems ranging from cavities to gum disease.

Basically, here's what happens.

When bacteria living in your mouth break down sugars, they generate acidic byproducts, which then get stuck to the teeth and dissolve the enamel and dentin.

Dentist-recommended ways to prevent decay include:

  • drinking floridated water
  • regularly flossing your teeth
  • brushing after meals
  • limiting the intake of candies
  • going to the dentist regularly for cleanings and cavity fillings

Public health implications.

Given the established correlation between carb consumption and tooth and gum diseases--and the fact that we collectively spend billions of dollars a year on these dental problems--you might think that our public health officials would be pushing us to limit our intake of simple sugars like fructose (found in fruit juice), lactose (found in milk), and glucose (found in vitamin-enhanced waters). Unfortunately, we get no such advice. We in fact often get the opposite advice: to consume more fruits, grains, and breads.

Evolutionary evidence indicates that carbs are bad for our teeth.

Enamel decay and cavities have been around since pre-historic times. From fossil research, we know that our Australopithecus ancestors had cavities--likely resulting from decay bought on by diets rich in carbohydrates. Throughout Neolithic time--dating back from the advent of agriculture 10,000 years ago through today--homo sapiens likewise have suffered from tooth decay.

Curiously, though, not all of our ancestors had these problems. The fossil record clearly shows that our hunter-gatherer Paleolithic ancestors--those who lived from the end of the era of Australopithecus (approximately 2.5 million years ago) through the beginning of the Neolithic Period (10,000 years ago)--did not suffer nearly as much dental decay.


One plausible reason is that our Paleolithic progenitors ate primarily carnivorous diets that were very low in carbohydrates.

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