Are artificial sweeteners bad for your teeth?
There is no doubt sugar is bad for your teeth. So, as an alternative ‘healthy’ option to sugar, we use artificial sweeteners. But are these sweeteners a better option for our teeth than sugar or are they causing even more damage to your oral health?
To answer this question, we will first look at how sugar affects your overall oral health.
Effects of Sugar on Teeth
Sugar by itself doesn’t cause tooth decay. It’s the natural bacteria in our mouths which feeds on sugar that causes the damage. When bacteria consume sugar, they produce an acid waste product.
The acid then attacks the tooth enamel (protective layer on your teeth) and decalcifies it, taking away its structure.
Bacteria stick to your teeth in the form of plaque, a thin film which feels furry on your teeth when you run over it with your tongue. If plaque is not removed by brushing and flossing, it can lead to tooth decay. As well, your teeth will be more vulnerable to cavities.
Even after you stop consuming sugar, the bacteria in your mouth will keep producing acid for a further twenty minutes.
For this reason, we don’t recommend brushing your teeth instantly after having a meal or drink that is high in sugar. This is because the acid content in your mouth is still high and your enamel is weakened. Cleaning your teeth risks brushing off the protective layer of your teeth. Instead, have a glass of water to decrease the acid levels in your mouth. Make sure you wait at least 30 minutes after acidic meals to brush your teeth.
Effects of Artificial Sweeteners on Teeth
Artificial sweeteners do not contain sugar and therefore cannot provide bacteria with a food source to produce acid. However, the teeth are still affected by acid when we consume sweeteners.
Many products containing sweeteners also contain a high level of acid. This means, they don’t protect your teeth from the acid which is causing damage to the enamel. Acid levels are usually high in sugar-free candies and soft drinks as it makes them taste better.
But not all artificial sweeteners are bad for your teeth. One sweetener called Xylitol has been proven to help reduce tooth decay than any other sweetener option. For example, chewing sugar-free gum which contains this sweetener can help keep your teeth healthy. It does this by removing acidic food particles from the tooth’s surface and increases the saliva production in your mouth.
In general, not all artificial sweetened products contain a high level of acid. Chocolate flavoured products usually are lower in acidic content than fruit or sour flavoured drinks or foods. You should keep this in mind when consuming products containing artificial sweeteners.
For your overall health it is best to limit the amount of sugar you consume per day. It also helps to reduce the time sugar is left in the mouth wherever possible. Try to avoid lollies, sticky or chewy candies and snacks. As well, drink water after having a drink or meal with a high sugar content. If you choose to consume products containing artificial sweeteners, opt for drinks and snacks that are not sour, or fruit flavoured.
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