3 mins read

Not so Sweet – Are Sugar-Free Choices Safer for Your Teeth?

by | Mar 29, 2018

When it comes to protecting your teeth, you probably already know that consuming excessive amounts of heavily sweetened foods and drinks are bad for your teeth. However, if you want something sweet, that’s not an issue these days – you simply take a bite out of one of the endless sugar-free options available. Not so fast…is consuming the sugar-free versions any healthier?



Understanding the Oral Health Effects of Sugary Foods and Drinks


To understand the effects of sugar-free foods on teeth and whether or not they are better for your teeth than sugary foods and drinks, we must first understand the impact of sugar on the teeth.


What Happens When You Consume Sugar?


When you eat sugar, the bad bacteria in your mouth consume the sugar and rapidly multiply. The byproduct of this process is plaque, which has no color and sticks to your teeth. The plaque is then consumed by the bad bacteria in your mouth, a vicious cycle. As the bacteria consume the sticky, sugary plaque, they multiply. The result of this process is acid, and the acid attack occurs as soon as you eat or drink and can last as long as 30 minutes.


The acid causes a deterioration of the enamel. If you eat sugary foods and drinks often, like sipping on a regular soda or eating a cookie every few minutes, your teeth can undergo a prolonged acid attack.  These extended acid attacks can soften your enamel, leading to holes that can turn into tooth decay and cavities if proper oral hygiene is not utilized.


How Do You Protect Your Teeth Against Acid Attacks?


Protecting your teeth from acid attacks involves limiting your intake of highly-processed, sugary foods and drinks. This means avoiding the temptation to eat several cookies or cakes over the course of the day and not drinking a regular coke for hours. You must also brush your teeth twice a day and floss once a day to remove all the plaque from your teeth before it turns into tartar, which can lead to gum disease. It is also important to schedule regular dental checkups and teeth cleanings every six to 12 months.


Understanding the Oral Health Effects of Sugar-Free Foods and Drinks


To protect your teeth from acid attacks, you may be tempted to switch to the sugar-free versions of your favorite drinks and sweets. Unfortunately, there are certain types of sugar-free foods that can do as much damage to your teeth as eating a piece of cake with extra icing.


Are Sugar-Free Foods Bad or Good for Teeth?


When sugar is removed, it must be replaced with something else, usually a sugar substitute, like sucrose, agave, aspartame, neotame, saccharin, sorbitol, sucralose, and xylitol, which is a sugar alcohol. While sugar-substitutes aren’t necessarily harmful to the teeth, many sugar-free products contain artificial preservatives and colors that can make the mouth more acidic, leading to an increased risk of tooth decay and cavities.


Good Sugar-Free Foods


There are some sugar-free foods that are good for your teeth. However, it’s still important to read the label. Not all sugar-free foods are sugar-free. Some simply have no added sugar. When it comes to consuming sugar-free foods, candies, and drinks, there is only one product that helps protect your teeth, and that is sugar-free gum. Sugar-free gum cleans your teeth while you are chewing it, which means less gum disease-causing plaque on your teeth.


Bad Sugar-Free Foods


Lots of sugar-free foods are just as harmful to your teeth as eating regular sugar, especially if they contain a lot of acidic additives and colors. The worst offenders are sugar-free sodas, sports drinks, and energy drinks. While the sugar substitute may not cause acid attacks, the artificial ingredients, preservatives, and colors will cause acid attacks, resulting in a weakening of your enamel and an increased risk of cavities.


Protecting Your Teeth Against Acid Attacks from Sugar-Free Foods and Drinks


When it comes to protecting your teeth from sugar-free foods and drinks, you must remain vigilant. Reading the label can tell you which sugar substitute is used in the product and if there are any acidic additives that may harm your teeth. Also, you must follow good oral hygiene practices, limit your intake of sugar-free foods, and drinks and get your teeth professionally cleaned on a regular basis.

Triangle Dentistry, located in Raleigh, NC, provides a state-of-the-art facility that offers exceptional general dental and specialty services guided by empathy of a patient’s needs and desires. Services range from dental crowns to veneers and whitening procedures. For further information, questions, or to schedule an appointment, contact the office at (919) 747-3608.