14 August 2019

“Would you like sugar in your tea?”

According to the latest statistics, it’s a question that more than one in three of us (37%) say yes to.

Of course, the next logical step after a yes to that question is “how many?” and unfortunately the figures are quite shocking. Our research shows that around a third of Brits (32%) have one or two teaspoons of sugar in their tea and coffee.  More worrying, one in 20 add between three and four1.

One sugar in your cup of tea might not sound like much but it all adds up at the end of the day.  Each teaspoon is around 4 grams of sugar.  This means it only take four hot beverages with one teaspoon of sugar to exceed half the recommended daily limit (30g).

In the UK, we have one of the highest sugar consumption compared to our European counterparts. Recent statistics show the UK came fourth out of the world’s 54 largest countries in a ranking of sugary food consumption, only behind the United States, the Netherlands and Finland2. As someone who has always enjoyed indulging in a packet of sweets, I can understand the temptation to reach for the sugar pot. However, discovering the impact that sugar has on not just oral health, but general health too, really opened my eyes.

Sugar doesn’t just cause tooth decay.  It is also linked to conditions like diabetes and heart disease. The UK is currently in the grips of an obesity crisis and high sugar consumption is a compounding factor. Every week in the UK there are 169 amputations due to diabetes, 680 strokes and 530 heart attacks.  This is on top of thousands of rotten teeth being extracted in dental practices and hospitals.

Cutting sugar out of tea and coffee is a great way to slash your sugar consumption. For just under a third of Brits, it would mean having up to 56 grams less sugar a week or 2,912 grams less a year. A significant reduction that can have an extremely positive affect on your quality of life.

If you really do crave some sweetness in your cuppa, then natural sweeteners such as xylitol or stevia might be something to consider. They’ll give you that ‘sweet’ taste, without contributing to tooth decay.  If you can bear to be without it, remember that plain tea or coffee is always best.

As always, regular dental visits are vital for keeping your teeth in good order. Your dentist is in the best position to tell you how your diet is affecting your oral health. A dentist or dental hygienist can also offer you advice on how to adjust it to make your diet to make it more “tooth friendly”.

For more information about how your diet can affect your teeth head over to our Diet and my Teeth page.


  1. Oral Health Foundation (2019) ‘National Smile Month Survey 2019’, Atomik Research, United Kingdom, Sample Size 2,003
  2. The Times, Britain named and shamed for its sweet tooth, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/britain-named-and-shamed-for-its-sweet-tooth-xxwbhj7f9 (accessed August 2019)