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HomeFood & DrinkWhat Fermentable Carbohydrates Are & How They Hurt Your Teeth

What Fermentable Carbohydrates Are & How They Hurt Your Teeth

Fermentable carbohydrates.

You may have heard that phrase before and wondered what it means.  In this article, I’ll let you know what fermentable carbohydrates are and how they can hurt your teeth.

What Are Fermentable Carbohydrates?

Fermentable Carbohydrates Cookies and MilkCarbohydrates are sugars and starches.  They are a major source of energy for humans.  When we something with sugar or starch, like white bread, the residues can stick around in our mouth.  These carbohydrates are then broken down by the bacteria that live in our mouth through a process called fermentation.

So, fermentable carbohydrates are simply carbohydrates that can be broken down into acid by the plaque in our mouth.

How Fermentable Carbohydrates Hurt Your Teeth

Fermentable carbohydrates are broken down into acid.  The acid can then dissolve your teeth until it is eventually rinsed away by your saliva.  Luckily, our saliva can repair the damage by laying down new calcium to replace the tooth structure that was lost.

For more on this, read the article Keep Your Teeth Below Freezing.

What Contains Fermentable Carbohydrates?

Fermentable carbohydrates are found in anything that is sweetened with sugar, high fructose corn syrup, or any one of 50 other names for sugar.  Many of the starches that we eat are broken down into sugar in our mouth.  If you take a bite of bread and chew on it long enough, you’ll notice that it begins to get sweet.  This is because our spit has an enzyme called salivary amylase (ptyalin) that breaks down starch into sugar.

You might be interested in reading about the five sugars that hurt your teeth.


Fermentable carbohydrates are called fermentable because the bacteria (plaque) in our mouth can break them down into acids that ruin our teeth.  Brushing and flossing our teeth daily can remove the bacteria from off of our teeth and limit the amount of fermentable carbohydrate that gets turned into tooth-dissolving acid.

If you have any questions or comments about fermentable carbohydrates, feel free to leave them below in the comments section.



  1. Do you think if I cut fermentable carbohydrates from my diet my dry mouth would be better?
    I am going to try. Thank-you for the article. I have researched solutions for my dry mouth for years.
    MRI, doctor said I have Sjorgens- ummm, grapefruit seed oil rinse, no mint, change toothpaste to all natural one, gluten free diet ( that was hard), and all kinds of herbs. I do not think I have Sjorgens disease, my eyes are not dry and the truth is I do not want to be on any medication. I am 55, even thought it was menopause for a while. One friend suggested it was the fillings in my mouth and that would be extremely expensive to replace. The dentist says my mouth is not dry and I have not had a cavity for years. I am not thirsty it is just a sensation of dry mouth, especially in the front gums. I chew gum 24 hours a day. I hate it. I am on no medications at all.
    Any more suggestions would be appreciated. I have hope again with your article.

    • Hi There,

      Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder in which your body thinks your salivary glands are something foreign so your immune system attacks them. This is what is causing your dry mouth, as your salivary glands are not as effective as they should be. Your best bet is to utilize biotene every day (toothpaste and mouthrinse). Use the rinse 2x daily and the toothpaste any time that you brush. This will help bring some moisture back into your mouth. If just this alone does not work you can use the dry mouth lozenges from biotene. Removing fillings is absolutely not necessary and a dentist will not do it if the filling is in good condition as it is against the standard of care. I am a dental hygienist and biotene has helped out many of my clients. Medications also cause dry mouth so if you are on any this could also be an added cause. However, try the biotene and try sipping on water throughout the day. These are the only options available for someone with Sjogren’s syndrome. I wish you luck!

  2. I am DH student and I am trying to understand ferment-able carbohydrates. Does it help if the ferment-able carbohydrate is consumed with a non-carb. For instance an egg and cheese croissant , and are there levels to ferment-able carbohydrates? Is a flavored rice cake a ferment-able carbohydrate? what about mixed dishes like stew or stir fry?

  3. This may be a bit delayed in coming but I’m replying in the event that someone else sees your comment and has the same question. The answer is… look at the ingredients. Dr. Tom provided a link to the names of things to be alert for in the food you eat in the first line of this blog post. To find the 50 other names for sugar, simply click on the link he has attached to that part of the sentence:

    Fermentable carbohydrates are found in anything that is sweetened with sugar, high fructose corn syrup, or any one of 50 other names for sugar.

    Good luck in school, and spread the word. Thank you Dr. Tom for creating this website.


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