A recent study warns that sugar-free drinks may not be so good for your teeth after all - here's why.
Sugar free beverages have been widely advertised as a tooth-friendly alternative to sodas and sports drinks, but a recent study suggests that they may not be so benign after all. According to a report from Medical News Today, a group of researchers from the University of Melbourne in Australia have demonstrated that some sugar-free drinks can cause rather serious damage.
The study, carried out by researchers at the Oral Health Cooperative Research Center, or CRC, examined 23 different drinks advertised as sugar-free, including sodas and sports drinks. The pH in many of these beverages was the key indicator that they would lead some dental harm; the acidic additives to compensate for the lost sugar were found to eat right through the tooth’s enamel. The study highlights the importance of considering a number of factors influencing a drink’s effects on oral health, and not just its sugar content.
Sugar has been known to lead to tooth decay for decades, after researchers observed plaque forming from residual sugar on the teeth. Bacteria feast on this plaque, and create acids as a byproduct. This acid breaks down the outer layers of tooth enamel, which can lead to sensitive and even rotting teeth.
According to professor Eric Reynolds of the Melbourne Dental School, who also serves as the CEO of Oral Health CRC, reducing sugar intake is just one of the steps you can take to cut down on tooth decay; the acidity of your beverage is just as important to consider.
After acids have begun to strip away tooth enamel, the damage can go as far as exposing the soft pulp on the inside of the tooth. Sugar substitutes such as xylitol, sorbitol, and mannitol can be just as harmful as the real deal, Reynolds and his team think.
One of the best ways to address the problem of tooth decay caused by acidic sugar substitutes is to get some saliva flowing to help neutralize the acids. Researchers suggest chewing a piece of (sugar-free, of course) gum top help regulate the pH in your mouth and prevent tooth decay after consuming a sugar-free drink.
A press release from the University of Melbourne outlining the details of the study can be found here.