Bozart Family Dentistry Tip of the Week: Is Sugar-Free Safer for your Teeth?

By / Health and Wellness / الثلاثاء, 05 نيسان/أبريل 2016 04:00

Unfortunately, not necessarily, and here’s why…

It is certainly true that sugar can cause dental decay, and avoiding sugary foods is always a good start to protecting your teeth! However, products like candies, sodas, and sports drinks are often filled with highly acidic chemicals which can eat away at your smile. This is true for both sugar-containing and sugar-free versions of many processed products. Foods and drinks with low pH levels (high acidity) eat away at the hard, protective enamel of the tooth and work their way in, eventually reaching the tooth’s soft inner pulp. While older studies have focused on the effects of sugar, recent studies also show a clear link between acidity and the corrosion of teeth, making it clear that simply avoiding sugar is NOT enough to protect yourself from damaging your chompers. According to one recent study from the Oral Health Cooperative Research Center at Melbourne University, typical sports drinks and soft drinks cause tooth enamel to become 30 to 50 percent weaker. This finding applied to both the sugar-free and sugar-containing versions of the drinks. Furthermore, 75% of the sports drinks tested in the study were actually shown to cause enamel loss.
So, what happens when the consumption of acidic products begins to take its toll?
The process in which acids eat away at the teeth is called dental erosion, and it can lead to some serious cavities! Acids have a very corrosive effect on teeth, softening them and stripping away the calcium-rich enamel. The weakening and loss of tooth enamel makes it a lot easier for bacteria to make a home in your pearly whites and decay them. As a result, you may find yourself in need of dental fillings. In serious cases, dental erosion causes patients to need veneers, crowns, or root canals in order to avoid the loss of teeth.
What can be done to avoid dental erosion caused by acidic foods and drinks?
In order to prevent enamel loss caused by products such as candies and beverages, we recommend that you opt for choosing water over flavored or sweetened drinks and that you try to keep your candy consumption to a minimum. Also, check the nutritional information when you choose a product; does the ingredient list contain phosphoric acid, citric acid, or tartaric acid? These three acids are especially significant contributors to enamel erosion. Other names to watch out for are sodium citrate, tartrates, and malic or fumaric acid.
If you must consume acidic beverages, try to have them with foods to neutralize their enamel-devastating effects. Another healthy habit to prevent dental erosion is to rinse your mouth with water after consuming acidic candies or beverages. Then, wait about an hour before brushing your teeth. This habit will help you to avoid massaging corrosive acids deeper into the enamel, which worsens the softening effects of the acids on your teeth. Finally, we recommend that you make regular appointments for dental checkups. Your dentist can look for signs of enamel loss, which is a very common problem. More than 40% of American children already experience some degree of enamel loss and nearly half of U.S. teens show dental erosion in at least one tooth. By age 19, nearly 60% of Americans have had at least one cavity in a permanent tooth.
So, when you snack or sip, choose wisely -- and be sure to keep your dental appointments! Sugar-free drinks and candies may not directly cause cavities, but they definitely make it easier for these bad guys to form. Fortunately, now you’re in the know about highly acidic but seemingly “healthy” alternatives to sugary drinks and candies!
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