Think Sugar-Free is the Answer to Avoiding Cavities? Not Always. | Kessler Dental Associates

I bet you thought that if you replace those sugary snacks and drinks with sugar free alternatives, you no longer need to worry about cavities. Right?  Well, unfortunately, you’re wrong. According to a new study from the University of Melbourne’s Oral Health Research Center, sugar-free foods and drinks can actually cause significant damage to tooth enamel, too. Researchers found that sugar-free drinks like Diet Coke can soften enamel by 30 to 50 percent.

The researchers tested 23 different kinds of beverages, including sodas and performance drinks, finding that drinks with acidic additives and low pH levels can damage the enamel, regardless of whether it contains sugar or not. Teeth with eroded enamel are at higher risk to bacterial infection and, thus, tooth decay.

What many people don’t know is that while reducing your sugar intake does reduce your risk of dental decay, the chemical mix of acids in some foods and drinks can cause the equally damaging problem of dental erosion. Dental erosion happens when acid dissolves the hard tissues of the tooth. Scientists say citric acid and phosphoric acid are often the culprits — so be sure to check labels for these acids. Sugar-free foods like lollipops and other candies can have these ingredients as well. The researchers tested 32 sugar-free candies, finding fruit-flavored confections to cause more damage than mint and menthol-containing ones.Interestingly, many of these products have labels that indicate they are sugar free for healthy teeth.

To maintain a healthy smile stay away from acidic sugar-free foods and drinks; If you still want to indulge, before brushing, rinse your mouth with water first. This will help harden the enamel before brushing, which helps protect against damage from brushing too hard.