It is common knowledge that sugar is bad for teeth. Bacteria in your mouth feed on the sugar, and they produce acid that can damage your dental enamel and eventually cause cavities. Sugar can also be detrimental for overall health in a number of ways, so it makes sense that dentists and physicians alike often admonish their patients to enjoy sweets in moderation. But what about sugar substitutes? Are they better for your teeth than regular sugar? This blog post discusses that important question.
Sugar Substitutes: Good News and Bad News
The good news is that most sugar substitutes, such as saccharin, sucralose, and aspartame, do not encourage the formation of plaque in your mouth. But does that mean you can enjoy your diet soda without worrying that it will damage your teeth? Not exactly. Many foods that swap out sugar in favor of artificial sweeteners are quite acidic. The acid in them can easily wear away at your tooth enamel and cause significant damage over time.
It is also a good idea to research sugar substitutes and how they might affect you. For example, some research has found that because artificial sweeteners do not contain calories, they do not actually satisfy cravings. In some cases, they have been found to increase cravings for sugary substances.
Xylitol: A Unique Sugar Substitute
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that contains fewer calories than sugar. It is used as a sugar substitute in many types of chewing gum and candies that are marketed to diabetics. Many dentists actually recommend that their patients chew gum that is sweetened with xylitol because it can play a role in preventing cavities.
Decay-causing bacteria in the mouth love to feed on glucose. They can also feed on xylitol, but the xylitol does not provide them with any fuel. It actually prevents them from ingesting glucose and causes them to starve to death.
As beneficial as xylitol is, though, keep in mind that it might have digestive side effects if you do not regularly consume it. Most people’s bodies adapt to it fairly quickly.
The Bottom Line on Sugar and Sugar Substitutes
There is nothing wrong with indulging in sweets once in a while, but whether you opt for real sugar or sugar substitutes, moderation is key. If you are concerned about how a particular sweetener might be affecting your dental health, get in touch with your dentist. They can give you personalized advice during your next checkup.
There are lots of sweetener options out there. Research your choices and consult with your dentist so you can make teeth-friendly decisions.
Meet the Dentist
Dr. James Kalina is a highly accomplished dentist in Mankato, MN. He is committed to helping patients understand their oral health and make decisions that can benefit their teeth and gums for the long haul. If you have questions about which types of foods and beverages are best for teeth, or if it is time for your next checkup, Dr. Kalina would be happy to serve you. Contact our office at 507-625-2021.