It can often feel like we are told that something is good for us one day, then told it’s bad for us the next day. It can be very confusing and difficult to decide exactly what we should be eating and drinking.
As dentists and hygienists, we often get asked whether sugar-free food and drink is healthy for your oral health, so let’s break it down.
At first glance, sugar-free alternative fizzy drinks seem like the better option, and although they do keep your sugar intake lower than their regular counterpart, they aren’t exactly healthier for your teeth.
Although sugar-free drinks don’t contain sugar, they usually cause about the same amount of dental erosion as regular drinks. This is because the artificial sweeteners contain chemicals that weaken the enamel on your teeth, which can be brushed away easily, exposing the inner layer of your teeth and causing cavities. Enjoy fizzy drinks in moderation, drink a glass of water after and wait at least 30 minutes before brushing your teeth.
As people have become more health aware, supermarkets have been filling their shelves with ‘healthier’ alternatives, sugar-free sweets. However, are they better for you? Sugar-free sweets certainly have its benefits, as it can give people looking to control their blood sugar more options. Yet, when it comes to your smile, this isn’t always the case.
Sweets that are flavoured with things like citric acid can cause damage to your enamel and even if sticky, chewy or hard-boiled sweets don’t contain sugar, they expose your teeth to acids over a long period of time, which can be more damaging than sweets that you chew and swallow quickly. Watch out for sour-tasting sweets and acidic added ingredients, such as phosphoric acid and citric acid.
Sugar-free chewing gum
Good news. Sugar-free chewing gum is not bad for your teeth, and it is actually beneficial for them. The sweetener, Xylitol, has been proven to help reduce tooth decay. It can stunt bacterial growth by up to 90%, so not only does it neutralise the acid in your mouth but also prevents them from starting in the first place, making it extremely hard for plaque to stick to your teeth. The simple act of chewing also stimulates saliva in the mouth, which helps to wash away any leftover food, acid, and sugars, which may turn into plaque.