Do you have a sweet tooth or sweet tongue? How your genes may influence your risk of getting cavities.

How many Easter eggs did you find in the Easter weekend? More importantly, how many chocolate Easters eggs did you eat? How come some of us just can’t say “No” to the sweet temptation? In our current understanding of caries, we know that the more frequently we eat and snack, the higher the chances of developing cavities. We also know that certain kind of bacteria in the mouth is able to break down the sugar in food we eat into acid. (not necessarily food like cookies or chocolate which are the obvious culprits; even “good” food like fruits contain lots of sugar). This acid erodes the enamel away and eventually destroys the tooth. It makes sense that if a person has a constant craving for snacking, especially foods with high sugar content, he/she may be more susceptible to getting tooth decay. This desire for high sugar food may be more entrenched than we used to think. We often use the term “sweet tooth” to describe people who have craving for sweet food. A recent research article in Caries Research found that it may be someone’s sweet tongue that is responsible for the sweet appetite. The research team found that people who have subtle changes on a gene that makes the sweetness receptors on taste buds (the TAS gene) are associated with having more caries in their mouth. The hypothesis is that the sweet receptors on our tongue may make some of us taste sweetness better in food. This enhanced sweet sensation may make us crave for sweet food more frequently, which may lead to more cavities. So next time when you have an inner calling for sweet food, don’t blame your tooth. Just remember to brush them well afterwards!

We, at the Children’s Oral Care Centre, would like share some tips on how to be Snack-Smart:

  1. Avoid sticky snacks like toffee or fruit roll-up which may sticks to your teeth for a long time.
  2. Choose snacks that are relatively lower in sugar and higher in protein. For examples: Aged cheddar cheese or various kinds of nuts (not honey roasted, of course!)
  3. Eat your sugary snacks after a meal (like a dessert) rather than in the middle of the day. Your saliva flow is the greatest after a meal so it helps to wash away any left-over snack in your mouth.
  4. Chew a piece of sugar free gum after you eat. The chewing action stimulates saliva flow which helps to buffer the bacterial acid harmful to your teeth.

Caries Res. 2012 Dec 19;47(3):219-225