Are sugar-free drinks damaging your teeth?

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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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  1. While fluoride may strengthen enamel, consumption of fluoride weakens bones by making them more brittle, this also leads to osteoporosis. Further, “There have been over eighty experiments that show that fluoride interferes with animal brain, twenty-three studies that have found an association between moderate to high fluoride exposure and lowered IQ in children, three studies that have found fluoride damage to fetal brain, and one study showing altered behavior in children in areas endemic for natural fluoride exposure.” This is a direct quote from a book called “The Case Against Fluoride: How hazardous Waste Ended Up in Our Drinking Water and the Bad Science and Powerful Politics That Keep It There.” Written By Paul H. Connett, PhD; James S. Beck, MD, PhD; H. S. Micklem, DPhil. Surprising that a doctor would suggest drinking such water.

  2. American Beverage Association, ABA Communications March 17, 2016 at 8:11 am · Reply

    Just as our general health is influenced by myriad risk factors, so is our oral health. Therefore, it’s overly simplistic to characterize beverages as a unique cause of oral health issues. Oral health is determined by a variety of factors, including types of foods consumed, the length of time foods are retained in the mouth and the level of oral hygiene. In fact, science tells us that individual susceptibility to both dental caries and erosion varies depending on a person’s behavior, lifestyle, diet and genetic make-up. As noted here, there are steps people can take to prevent and mitigate oral health issues, including maintaining good oral hygiene habits and making routine dental visits.

  3. I recommend cutting out as much sugar from your diet as possible – beverages and foods. If you ever get physically ill, my dentist told me that you need to wait at least an hour before brushing your teeth. This is due to the stomach acid that may be damaging your tooth enamel. If you try to brush too soon, you will be damaging your enamel even more. Great tips, thanks for sharing!

  4. Smile Dental Care June 19, 2021 at 5:35 am · Reply

    Thanks for sharing a useful piece of information. Keep it up!

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About the Author

Tiffany Nguyen
Tiffany Nguyen

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.