Sugar is bad for your teeth and gums because it feeds the bacteria that live in plaque, that soft furry stuff that builds up on your teeth. These bacteria produce an acid. This acid makes the holes in your teeth, called cavities, and also breaks down the attachment between your teeth and gums, leading to inflamed gums and “pockets” down the sides of the teeth. The bone that your teeth sit in then receeds away from the inflamed gums, leading to a gradual loosening of the teeth.

Some foods are acidic and can damage teeth directly. These include diet fizzy drinks and fruit juice. The most important thing to remember is to keep the length of time your teeth and gums are exposed to sugar and acid to a minimum. This means keeping all eating and drinking to meal times. Snacking between meals or drinking a lot of sugary drinks will do serious damage. “Sports” drinks can be just as bad as regular fizzy drinks as they often contain high levels of sugars such as glucose.

Never use sugary drinks or full strength fruit juice in babies’ bottles. If you have to give a baby a bottle, always use a low concentration. If you have to give a child a snack or for between-meal snacking for yourself, try alternatives such as nuts, crisps, cheese, crackers, and fresh fruit.