Pumpkin Spice Lattes Pose a Sugary Problem for Dentists

November 19, 2015
Jared Kaltwasser

Halloween gets all the headlines when it comes to seasonal sugar highs, but it turns out the winter holiday season may be just as bad for Americans' teeth.

Halloween gets all the headlines when it comes to seasonal sugar highs, but it turns out the winter holiday season may be just as bad for Americans’ teeth.

A survey from Delta Dental Plans Association finds 72% of American adults consume sugar-laden holiday drinks like the ubiquitous pumpkin spice latte and caramel apple ciders in the weeks leading up to the holidays. A whopping 39% of those sugary-drink-lovers say they have such a beverage at least once a week.

That’s bad news when it comes to sugar.

A tall (12 oz.) Starbucks pumpkin spice latte with whipped cream contains 39 grams of sugar. The latest recommendations from the Food and Drug Administration advise Americans to limit daily sugar intake to 50 grams. That means patrons who upgrade to a grande (16 oz.) PSL would have their fill of sugar in just one drink.

Starbucks’ caramel apple spice drink is even worse. A tall version with whipped cream comes with 53 grams of sugar.

Bill Kohn, DDS, the Delta Denta’s vice president of dental science and policy, warns holiday revelers to remember their teeth when they’re drinking their favorite holiday treats.

“Keep in mind much of the sweet taste does come from sugar and we want to remind people that a few quick steps can help protect their teeth and their oral health,” he said.

He suggests dentists advise patients to consider decreasing the number of “pumps” of flavoring or syrup in their drinks. One pump is about one teaspoon’s worth of sugar.

Patients should also drink sugary drinks with a meal, rather than alone, and follow up their sugary beverages with a glass of water and a brushing of their teeth. Gum can also help stop sugar from clinging to the mouth — provided the gum is sugar-free.

Aside from confirming the popularity of pumpkin spice lattes, the survey also found that many parents might be engaging in a bit of sugar-fueled hypocrisy. While most parents tell their kids to limit candy on Halloween, the survey found parents are much more likely than childless people to drink sugary holiday drinks at least once a week (53% versus 33%).

Image via Flickr user Famil

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