Your teeth have an enemy and its name is sugar. We have long known that sugar contributes to tooth decay and poor oral health. The modern high carbohydrate, high sugar diet is a constant threat to not just oral health, but overall health. Everywhere you look there are high sugar foods, even those in the health food aisle.‘Naturally flavored’ does not mean healthy or sugar-free. So what can we do to protect our oral health against the onslaught of sugary foods and drinks? Many foods contain sugar substitutes promising better health, but are they really healthy?
Are Sugar Substitutes Bad for Your Teeth?
Not All Sugar Substitutes are the Same
When we refer to artificial sweeteners, we are referring to things like Saccharin (Sweet N’Low), Aspartame (Equal), and Sucralose (Splenda). Artificial sweeteners are many times sweeter than regular table sugar and are so called intense sweeteners
- Add no calories
- Do not cause decay
- Add no nutritional value
Bottom Line: Okay for teeth. Use sparingly.
Sugar alcohols are not calorie free, but they are lower in calories than regular sugar. They are found in processed foods–you can’t buy a box and cook with it. Examples are xylitol and erythritol.
- Do not cause decay
- Can protect teeth against decay
- Good for between brushing
Bottom Line: Good for teeth!
Novel Sweeteners are comprised of a variety of other sweeteners that don’t fit into other categories. These are sweeteners like Stevia, tagatose, and trehalose. While Stevia and Tagatose do not contribute to tooth decay, trehalose does! Kind of a mixed bag, here.
Bottom Line: Stevia and tagatose okay for teeth. Trehalose contributes to tooth decay.
Natural Sweeteners are things like agave nectar, honey, molasses, and maple syrup.
- Just as bad for teeth as regular sugar
- Contributes to diabetes
- Honey should not be used in children under one year of age
Bottom Line: Just as bad for teeth as regular sugar.
How to Manage Sweet Treats
When you are making decisions about your food choices, remember, your oral health is a part of your overall health. The best kinds of foods are those high in nutrients and low in sugar and sugar substitutes.
For Your Best Health:
- Drink mostly water, unsweetened naturally brewed iced teas, and coffees
- Eat non-sticky, low carbohydrate foods
- Limit sugar
- Brush and floss
- When you can’t brush, rinse and chew gum with xylitol
- Get regular check-up’s and talk to your dentist about healthy choices for you