Sugars, Sweeteners, and your Teeth
Your oral health is essential to maintain your overall health. What you eat can play a big factor in all facets of your health, but especially in your mouth. Surely, you have heard about the consequences of sugar on your overall health and your teeth. A dentist will almost always recommend cutting down your sugar intake to increase your oral health, but that leads you to wonder about other things used to sweeten our foods, like artificial sweeteners.
First, let's look at a few key facts to help us truly see the effect that sugar has on teeth.
SUGAR AND YOUR TEETH
There is so much sugar in our everyday diet. Some of the biggest culprits include sugary drinks like soda, juice, coffee, and tea, as well as sugary treats like cakes, donuts, candies, or cookies. While we are enjoying a yummy treat, we may not realize that it is the cause of a variety of problems in our mouth.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “free sugars are the essential dietary factor in the development of [cavities].” They suggest that if we were to “limit free sugar intake to less than 10% of [our] total energy intake… or ideally to less than 5%” we would minimize our risk of cavities throughout our life.
The reason that sugar is so bad for our teeth is because they contribute to cavities. This happens when bacteria in our mouths metabolizes sugar to produce acid. That acid will then create plaque on your teeth and eventually demineralizes (removes the minerals from) your teeth. The more your teeth are demineralized, the more likely you are to get cavities. Sugar and acid normally demineralize the coating of your teeth called the enamel, but it can also affect the hard tissue beneath your enamel, called dentin.
Sugar also can cause certain bacteria to become more prominent in your mouth, which ends up causing diseases like gingivitis and gum disease. Essentially, if you already intake a lot of sugar, or increase the amount of sugar you do eat, more bacteria will grow in your mouth which can lead to the problems mentioned and more.
SWEETENERS AND YOUR TEETH
Because sweeteners are so new to our diet, there is much debate on whether they are good or bad for your oral health. Some studies say they also can have negative effects, and others say that they do not affect your teeth or oral health at all. But they can definitely help you decrease your sugar intake and lessen the likelihood of more acid creation in your mouth.
Colgate, quoting the IJBCP study says, “artificial sweeteners are considered non-cariogenic, meaning that they don't contribute to tooth decay.” They also say that “artificial sweeteners seem to have the opposite effect [of sugar and] decrease the number of decay-causing bacteria in the mouth.”
Essentially, the less you eat sugar the better. Maybe sweeteners are the way for you to accomplish that goal and take better care of your physical health, as well as your oral health.