Types of Sugars

Nicholas Ng

Types of Sugars

The term sugars includes all the monosaccharides and disaccharides:

There is no evidence for differences among the common sugars in their ability to directly induce demineralization of enamel, the exception being lactose, which has relatively less acidogenic potential.

glucose maltose
fructose lactose


Table by Nicholas Ng (2009)

However, special attention should be given to sucrose, which appears to play a more significant role in plaque formation. Sucrose can be digested into glucose and fructose molecules by bacterial invertases, which combine to form extracellular polysaccharides. These polysaccharides serve as substrate for plaque microorganisms, and also, under the influence of microbial glycosyltransferases, form extracellular glucans. (Zero, 2004, p.277-282; Anderson, Curzon, Van Loveren, Tatsi, & Duggal, 2009, p.2)


Sugar Alcohols

There is also a classification of sugars commonly referred to as sugar alcohols (also known as polyols). They contribute fewer calories than sucrose or fructose as they are incompletely metabolized. They have many properties that are interesting especially in caries prevention, and are increasingly being used as substitutes for sucrose and fructose.
Image by Nicholas Ng (2009)



1. Anderson, C. A., Curzon, M. E., Van Loveren, C., Tatsi, C., & Duggal, M. S. (2009). Sucrose and dental caries: a review of the evidence. Obes Rev, 10 Suppl 1, 41-54.

2. Ly, K. A., Milgrom, P., & Rothen, M. (2008). The potential of dental-protective chewing gum in oral health interventions. J Am Dent Assoc, 139(5), 553-563.

3. Zero, D. T. (2004). Sugars - the arch criminal? Caries Res, 38(3), 277-285.

Diet and Dental Caries | Types of Sugars | Cariogenicity of Other Foods | Evidence Linking Sugar and Dental Caries in Humans
Influence of Consumption Pattern | Malnutrition and Dental Caries | Influence of Fluoride on the Sugars/Caries Relationship
Protective Factors in Food | Non-Sugar Sweeteners | Dietary Control and Dental Caries | Summary

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