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This is something I remember hearing pretty often as a kid. Specifically, that you shouldn't eat too much candy or it will give you tooth decay.

Is this the case? Does eating a lot of candy make your teeth decay? Or is it a lack of proper dental hygiene that leads to the decay, with the consumption of candy not making a significant difference?

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Sugar (sucrose) is known to be linked to plaque formation, so I suspect the answer to this question will be something along the lines of, "Sugar has the potential to make your teeth rot, especially if one has poor dental hygiene." Therefore, this question sounds a lot like, "Does driving a car make one more likely to receive a speeding ticket?" Sure, but primarily if you're already speeding in the first place! –  ESultanik Jul 25 '11 at 17:13

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up vote 16 down vote accepted

From http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002050/ (my emphasis)

Bacteria are normally present in the mouth. The bacteria convert all foods -- especially sugar and starch -- into acids [...]

The acids in plaque dissolve the enamel surface of the tooth and create holes in the tooth (cavities). Cavities are usually painless until they grow very large and affect nerves or cause a tooth fracture. If left untreated, a tooth abscess can develop. Untreated tooth decay also destroys the internal structures of the tooth (pulp) and ultimately causes the loss of the tooth.

Carbohydrates (sugars and starches) increase the risk of tooth decay. Sticky foods are more harmful than nonsticky foods because they remain on the surface of the teeth. Frequent snacking increases the time that acids are in contact with the surface of the tooth.

Virtually all food contains carbohydrates, so every type of food will contribute to tooth decay if dental hygiene is not applied properly. However, the more sugar the food contains, the more the bacteria flourish and damage your teeth, as explained on that website.

If you apply proper dental hygiene, then eating sweets should not be a problem. The trouble is that sweets are usually consumed as snacks between meals and thus a long time passes until teeth are brushed, allowing more time for tooth decay.

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So is eating one candy equivalent to eating many candies within the space of an hour (without brushing)? The question still applies, does quantity affect level of decay? I would guess there's a saturation point (maybe one candy reaches it) when all surface area of the teeth are covered with enough sugar, and additional candies wouldn't increase rate of decay. –  Vijay Feb 27 at 5:07

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