We all know that sugar can lead to tooth decay as well as a variety of other health problems. But what about artificial sugars? Many people who can’t consume added sugar such as diabetics turn to artificial sweeteners as an alternative.
Since there are many sugar-free options available, this may seem like the safest move away from sugar. However, growing evidence points to the fact that artificial sweeteners aren’t any better for teeth—and may contribute to cavity formation.
Artificial Sweeteners Are Acidic
When sugar is introduced into the oral cavity, it works with bacteria to release acids that can weaken tooth enamel and therefore lead to cavities. With artificial sweeteners, they work a little differently. Their ingredients can be extremely acidic, which means they still increase your risk for cavities.
Researchers have found there’s virtually no difference between drinks sweetened with real sugar and drinks sweetened with artificial ones. The acidity of these sweeteners can weaken and erode tooth enamel, therefore making your teeth susceptible to decay.
May Cause Dental Erosion
Dental erosion isn’t quite the same thing as enamel erosion. While enamel erosion specifically refers to tooth enamel, dental erosion refers to your entire tooth. Research has linked artificial sweeteners to dental erosion, meaning that they’re corrosive enough to actually wear away your teeth, similarly to the effects of teeth grinding.
How does this happen? Since artificial sweeteners are so acidic, they can eat away at the tooth even when plaque isn’t necessarily present to affect the tooth enamel. This can cause improper tooth wear and painful sensitivity. There’s a growing body of evidence that artificial sweeteners are not exactly tooth friendly alternatives!
What Can You Do?
Although it’s normally fine for most people to have sugar on occasion, your best bet is to avoid added sugar—including artificial sweeteners—altogether. Research is clear that these sweeteners really aren’t any better for your teeth and may, in fact, be worse.
This means choosing water over soda, carrots over candy, and only having a sweet treat once per day, or less. Introduce more whole, healthy foods into your diet and keep simple carbohydrates such as sugar or white bread to a minimum. To help curb cravings, keep fresh fruit on hand, but remember that fruit juice can be just as damaging as soda!
You can also protect your smile by getting regular dental checkups to ensure that your tooth enamel is safe and healthy, and that you aren’t increasing your risk for cavities with your oral care routine. Your dentist can help protect your tooth enamel through regular care and cleanings.
Remember that reducing your sugar intake or swapping out real sugar for artificial alternatives doesn’t always decrease your risk for tooth decay. While you might be tempted to reach for these sweeteners, the truth is that they’re not any more helpful to your smile than sugar is. You can keep your smile strong and healthy for life by skipping the sugar—both real and fake!