Sugar and Teeth

I am following up on a promise I made in the December Healthy Kids Ideas Exchange Newsletter about sugar.    Are you on the edge of your seats!?  First, a few thank yous to:

-Kathy Gibson, 3rd grade teacher at the Community School of Sun Valley, Idaho who suggested this experiment and urged me to follow through
-Alexander and his fellow 3rd grade students at Community School who dilengently watched over this experiment
-Dr. Karsten Fostvedt, Dr. Josh Frost and the entire staff at St. Francis Pet Clinic in Ketchum, Idaho for the donation of the tooth for this experiment.

In the December newsletter about sugar, I had mentioned an experiment in school where we were going to see what happens when you “bathe” a tooth in a cola solution.  Ultimately, from a process standpoint, we went with the “keep it simple!” solution of having just one tooth and putting it in a cola solution along with fruit juice.  Per my Biochemist Dad (a big thank you to him as well for some great guidance on this project), we spit in the jar first –yes, yuck!– to create a environment that was representative of a mouth.  Here are a few highlights of the experiment:

-We used a sterilized canning jar, and once the tooth and the cola/juice/spit were inside, we sealed the jar with the lid
-The tooth was a beautifully white dog’s tooth with no porous details or scratches prior to the experiment
-We covered the tooth in regular Coke and “100% apple juice” (a juice box which has ingredients of:  apple juice from concentrate (water, concentrated apple juice); ascorbic acid (vitamin C))
-the experiment only last ONE WEEK (yes, just seven days)
-the jar was left in the kids classroom on the counter while the kids checked on it daily to exclaim “eewwww!” as the tooth changed color.

Here are the before and after pictures…. The lego man is there to give you a sense of scale. The combination of the sugar and the acid turned out to be, well, overwhelming.

I know, are you in the mood for a cola and/or fruit juice?


  1. kathryn says:

    Now it appears that some great advice for cancer patients would be to avoid sugar. Some recent research:
    *A new technique for detecting cancer by imaging the consumption of sugar with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has been unveiled in the journal Nature Medicine. The breakthrough could provide a safer and simpler alternative to standard radioactive techniques and enable radiologists to image tumors in greater detail.

    The new technique, called ‘glucose chemical exchange saturation transfer’ (glucoCEST), is based on the fact that tumors consume much more glucose than normal, healthy tissues in order to sustain their growth.

    The researchers found that sensitizing an MRI scanner to glucose uptake caused tumors to appear as bright images on MRI scans. The method uses an injection of normal sugar and could offer a cheap, safe alternative to existing methods for detecting tumors, which require the injection of radioactive material.

    In fact, the inventors state that they can detect cancer using the same sugar content found in half a standard sized chocolate bar. Trials are now underway to detect glucose in human cancers.

    *A new way to target a cancer cells’ appetite for over-indulging in sugar could provide an alternative treatment for chemotherapy resistant cancer.

    The treatment, being developed by the University of Southampton, exploits a novel link between sugar processing in the cells and their proliferation.

    The approach targets the active cancer cells and not normal cells, reducing the risk of side effects that affect thousands undergoing treatment. Chemicals called cyclic peptide inhibitors can stop ‘sweet toothed’ cancer cells from proliferating and multiplying by blocking proteins in the cells called CtBPs (C-terminal binding proteins). A key feature of cancer cells is they gorge on sugar from the blood, greedily processing it as a fuel supply which triggers CtBPs to bind together, forming pairs that enable cells to proliferate out of control.

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