Are sugar-free drinks damaging your teeth?
Switching to sugar-free drinks may not protect our teeth as much as thought in the past.
Research from the Oral Health Cooperative Research Centre at the University of Melbourne, Australia has discovered that drinks without sugar can cause damage to tooth enamel.
Dr. Kelly Kirtland, a pediatric dentist on staff at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago, explains that acids cause enamel erosion, specifically acids from sodas, juices and even sports drinks. The acids in these beverages weaken the enamel which allows bacteria to penetrate into the dentin, the soft layer of the tooth, and results in cavities.
Eric Reynolds, one of the lead researchers, found that while sugar substitutes may reduce the risk of dental decay, the high levels of acids in the beverages are hazardous to tooth enamel.
In the study, Reynolds tested 15 soft drinks, including three sugar-free brands, and found that all of the drinks produced significant erosion of dental enamel and that there was no significant difference between sugared and non-sugared drink dental erosion.
“Once your enamel is damaged, there is nothing you can do to replace it,” says Dr. Kirtland.
Dr. Kirtland suggests the following tips to minimize further damage to your enamel:
- Minimize snacking and acidic beverages: Every time you eat, the pH levels in your mouth decreases, which causes an acidic environment and causes enamel damage.
- Use fluoride toothpaste. This paste strengthens the enamel making it more resistant to acid attack.
Although sugar-free beverages may be a ‘healthier’ option, they still have acidic elements which weaken teeth, she says.
“Stick with water because it is sugar-free with a neutral pH,” Dr. Kirtland suggests. “Tap water is another beneficial choice because is it fluoridated and can strengthen your teeth at the same time.”
Dr. Kirtland also adds that parents should watch the consumption of milk in kids, as it has natural sugars which can damage their teeth.
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About the Author
Tiffany Nguyen, health enews contributor, is a public affairs and marketing intern at Advocate Support Centers in Downers Grove, IL. She is a graduate of Northern Illinois University with a degree in public health. She is currently pursuing a Master’s in Business Administration focusing specifically on healthcare management at Lewis University. Tiffany enjoys hanging out with her friends, exploring new restaurants, and binge watching Netflix shows.