Sometimes, it seems that what we are told something is good for us one day, and is then said to be bad for us the next day. This can make it difficult to decide exactly what we should be doing to keep ourselves in the best possible health.
Your teeth are subject to a lot of wear throughout your lifetime and you want to keep them strong and healthy. A question we are asked frequently at Dental Health Associates is whether or not sugar-free products are healthy for your teeth. Today, we will discuss some of the most popular items on the market and see if they will indeed keep your teeth healthy.
Drinks that contain artificial sweeteners can help keep your sugar intake low, but it has been determined that artificial sweeteners are just as likely to contain chemicals that soften the enamel on your teeth. As the enamel softens, it can be brushed away easily, exposing the inner layer of your teeth and causing cavities. At DHA, we suggest you stick with plain water or milk if you want to keep your teeth strong and healthy. If you do enjoy an occasional soda – diet or regular – be sure to brush your teeth soon after!
Stores everywhere have been adding more and more sugar-free candy to their shelves. These are another product that may appear healthier at first, but you have to be careful what types you consume. Candies that are flavored with things like citric acid can cause damage to your teeth. Sticky and chewy candies, even though they don’t contain sugar, can leave residue between teeth that is difficult to clean. Try to avoid hard candy, lollipops and caramels whenever possible. If you do feel the need to indulge, stick with flavors that are not acidic in nature.
Chewing sugar-free gum can actually be beneficial to your teeth, especially if you are unable to brush and floss after a meal. That said, some artificial sweeteners are better than others. The sweetener, Xylitol, has been proven in studies to help reduce tooth decay better than any other sweetener.
Whether your gum contains Xylitol or not, chewing gum still helps to rinse acidic foods from the surface of your teeth, keeping the acid from eating away at the enamel. Chewing gum also increases the saliva production in your mouth, further washing away food residue.
Keep in mind that gum chewing can be very hard on the jaw joint – the Temporomandibular Joint – so don’t chew gum too often or if your jaw becomes sore. Chewing sugar-free gum right after a meal, however, can improve your dental health and help prevent cavities.
For Better or Worse
Not all artificial sweeteners are harmful to your teeth. Flavors like mint and chocolate candies don’t contain the same acidic quality as fruit-flavored products do. By staying away from anything fruit flavored or sour, you reduce your chances of causing tooth erosion from these products.
Chewy, sticky or slow-dissolving hard candies are also better left alone. All of these can linger in your mouth, slowly dissolving the enamel and causing nerves to become exposed as cavities develop.
In the end, it is more a matter of moderation rather than whether or not you choose an artificially-sweetened product over one containing sugar. If you regularly practice good oral hygiene, a glass of a carbonated beverage here or a piece of butterscotch candy there won’t cause immediate damage to your teeth. It is when you use these products on a regular basis that the damage is most likely to occur.
Whenever possible, we recommend our patients opt for non-acidic fruits and vegetables as snacks and save the sweets for special occasions.
Dental Health Associates
Whether you use sugar-free products or not, the most important thing you can do to make sure your teeth stay healthy and strong is to brush and floss regularly and have your teeth professionally cleaned twice a year. Doing this will keep your teeth white and your smile bright. Schedule an appointment online today with one of the Dental Health Associates offices near you. We’re conveniently located in several clinics throughout Dane County, providing affordable dental checkups near Monona, Shorewood Hills, Downtown Madison, and beyond.