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Where is that sugar sneaking in?

So you come in for your 6-month cleaning and you’re really excited. You’ve been a lot better about brushing and flossing and you are ready to impress me with your perfectly healthy teeth.

But then you still have cavities.

What? I know it’s frustrating. But, I can usually figure out the culprit – it’s sugar!

You might be thinking, “But I really don’t eat a lot of sugar.”

Well, maybe you don’t… but chances are that you do. Let’s talk about some sneaky sources of sugar!

Drinks that Sneak In Sugar

Sneaky Sugar Sources

So many drinks have sugar in them. I would never expect you to cut these drinks out completely, but I will say that you should just drink them and be done with it! Don’t sip on them all day. That just gives the acid more time to erode your teeth. When you’re done drinking,  chew a piece of sugar-free gum, brush and floss your teeth, or swish with water or ACT fluoride rinse to rebalance the pH of your mouth.


There are 12 to 13 grams of sugar in a glass of regular milk. So, even if you only put milk in your coffee, you are still getting sugar in there.

Bonus: Keep an eye out for your yogurt, too. The sugar from the milk and from the flavoring can add up!

Energy Drinks

Energy drinks, like gatorade, have a ton of sugar. I know high school football players have gatorade at football practice and all day long they are usually drinking it. And since they are exercising, their mouth is getting drier and they are pouring the sugary drink on top of it with no saliva to protect their enamel from the acid!

Other drinks like Red Bull and Monster have a lot of sugar, too – about 11 grams for the Red Bull and a whopping 54 grams for a Monster! It’s best to avoid them.


Don’t even get me started on Starbucks drinks. Their drinks range from 12 grams to 98 grams! When you consider that the suggested daily intake of sugar is just 37.5 grams for men and 25 grams for women, that really puts the 98 grams into perspective!


Tea itself actually has a little bit of fluoride in it, which is great! It’s not so great when you add in honey, sugar, or milk. Keep a look out for bottled tea sugar levels too. Often, those are pumped full of it!

Sauces Spiked with Sugar

Many kinds of sauces add extra sugar to boost the flavor. Make sure to check those labels or, better yet, make your own sauce!

Here are a few sauces to watch out for:

  • Salad dressing

  • Asian sauces

  • Spaghetti sauce

  • Ketchup

  • Barbecue sauce

Other Sugar-Filled Foods

“Wheat” Bread

Wheat Bread Sugar Source

Double check your wheat bread. What’s the first ingredient? How about the second? If it’s truly whole wheat bread, the ingredients can tell you that. Refined carbs break down in our bodies as sugar.

Bonus: Crackers are often made from refined grains, too. Check the nutritional information before you start snacking.

Fruit, Fruit Juice, Fruit Spreads

Yes, fruit is healthy. It is also packed full of sugar – how else would it be so sweet? Fruit is better than fruit juice, though, because you get the fiber from it. Fruit spreads – like jellies and jams – are big culprits as well.

Breakfast Cereal

From Frosted Mini Wheats to instant oatmeal to granola, cereals have added sugar and are usually made from refined grains, too. Then you add the milk and you have even more sugar.

Granola is usually made from whole grains but in order to hold them together you need, you guessed it, sugar! And often, granola has extra ingredients like fruit or chocolate.

Granola Bars, Energy Bars, Sports Bars

These might as well be chocolate bars. Seriously! One of these bars can have  20 grams of sugar or more. They bring some nutritional benefit in the form of fiber and protein, but you can get those nutrients from plenty of other sources.

There are plenty more that I haven’t mentioned here. Just make sure to follow the rule of thumb: 37.5 grams for men and 25 grams for women per day. Check your labels and eventually you’ll know just how much sugar you are taking in every day.

I know you will still want a lot of these foods and that’s ok! Just remember to brush and floss or rinse your mouth after eating or drinking them to get those acids off your teeth.

The truth of the matter is still pretty powerful, though: lowering your sugar intake will work wonders for your teeth and the rest of your body!

Smile today!

~Dr. Halee Lesch