Are sugar-free products good for my teeth?
With sugar having such a harmful effect on our teeth, should I me moving to sugar-free food and drink instead? Read on and we’ll fill you in on the best way forward.
It’s funny how one topic of conversation can lead to something completely different. A young woman was with us recently having a tooth crown fitted. Dental crowns are a very typical form of treatment here at MyDental, and the patient was quite proud of the end product.
She told us that she was resolved not to ruin her lovely new smile by using sugary products, and stressed that she would only drink sugar-free alternatives in future.
There’s no doubt that opting for a sugar-free alternative is good for your waistline, and if used properly as part of a good overall diet, can definitely have its benefits.
But don’t be lulled into a false sense of security. Your typical big brand diet product typically has a number of acids and other harmful substances. Instead of causing dental caries (which sugar will do), these nasty elements can literally lead to erosion of your teeth.
And if you don’t believe us when we use the term erosion, try putting a coin or some other metal into a diet drink for a number of days – you’ll be amazed at the difference when you take it out.
But what about additives to sugar-free solid foods – the ones you’ll typically find in sugar-free chewing gum, for example. The good news is that they are not cariogenic, meaning that they won’t cause dental caries. There is also some evidence to suggest that they can actively prevent caries by limiting the level of bacteria, which causes harmful acid.
The best approach, however, is to adopt a diet that is low GI (glycaemic index), which means that they provide a slower and more sustained energy release. This is not just good advice for your oral health, but it will make a big difference to your overall health and weight as well.
Our own view on chewing gum, incidentally, is that chewing after food is a good thing. When you chew, you stimulate the production of extra saliva, and this can dilute or neutralize any acid in your mouth. It can also help to ‘collect’ those tiny food particles that may get stuck in hard-to-reach parts of your mouth.
There’s no need to chew for a long time. A few minutes after food can not alone help wash away any excess acid, but it also freshens your breath, of course, so you get a double benefit form chewing.
Another tip is that you should chew for a few minutes after every meal – even if it's only a small snack – as the acid can start to build up after a small meal just as easily as after a large dinner, for example.
Our patient with the new tooth crown was very impressed when we gave her this advice, and we’re certain that dental crowns will be kept in much better condition if you make every effort to cut down on harmful sugar-free drinks – and remember to chew every time that you eat!