Artificial Sweeteners and Natural Sugar—How They Affect Your Teeth
For years, we’ve been warned about the danger sugar can have on our overall health—too much sugar can lead to diabetes, heart disease, and most other major health issues. Additionally, it can be disastrous for your oral health. The increased popularity of artificial sweeteners like Splenda has thrown a curve into what many people thought they knew—is natural sugar or artificial sweetener better overall? Which one promotes better dental health? Read on to find out.
Sugar is often regarded as the worst food for your oral health, but it actually doesn’t hold the title—crackers and bread are the most cavity-causing foods; however, when bacteria in the mouth comes in contact with sugar, the bacteria produces acid for up to 20-minutes after the sugar is gone. Acid, not sugar, is what produces cavities and eats away at teeth. So while the sugar itself isn’t directly decaying teeth, it is helping the process along. One way to combat tooth damage from natural sugar is to eat less of it and eat it at once, instead of snacking throughout the day. Sticky sweet things like fruit snacks and raisins take longer to get off teeth. This means these kinds of sugary treats produce more acid and can harm teeth more. Teeth need the chance to re-mineralize between meals, which can be more difficult if you are constantly putting sugar and food in your mouth.
Many artificial sweeteners are touted as being “healthier” because they don’t have as many calories as natural sugar. Artificial sweeteners aren’t a perfect item, but they don’t produce the same acid that sugar does when it is combined with mouth bacteria, which means artificial sweeteners don’t leave behind the same enamel-destroying acid. Therefore, artificial sweeteners don’t carry many of the same dental risks as natural sugar. There are many varieties of sugar alcohol, many of which are commonly combined in artificial sweeteners. Of these, Xylitol is the most recommended by dentists because it has been proven to kill the bacteria that destroy teeth, leading to preventing tooth decay. Xylitol is commonly found in sugar-free gum. That isn’t to say that artificial sweeteners are entirely healthy, as they have been linked to other health problems, like obesity and some forms of diabetes.
When it comes to consuming natural or artificial sweeteners, it is best to use moderation for both your dental and overall health. When it comes to dental health, practicing restraint now can have benefits for years to come. If you still have questions about the risks of natural sugar and artificial sweeteners, we encourage you to contact a dentist. They will be able to help you understand this issue so you can make the best decision for your dental health.