You’ve probably heard more than once that you should try to opt for sugar-free foods over their sugar-filled counterparts. Sugarless gum, snacks and drinks are often touted as the end-all solution to healthy eating, but think twice before you fill your shopping cart with diet sodas and “dental-friendly” candy.
Sugar-free foods and drinks come with their own host of dangerous side-effects. Today, we’re here, to warn our patients about the hidden dangers of sugar-free foods, what to look out for and how to stay safe from cavity-causing substances.
How Does Tooth Decay Happen?
In order to fully understand the dangers posed by certain sugar-free foods, you need to first realize the mechanism behind tooth decay. While most people blame tooth decay on sugar, and rightfully so, it isn’t as simple as that. Tooth decay is actually caused by a bacteria known as dental caries.
Dental caries lives in your mouth and feeds on sugar. When it digests the sugar, it secretes acid that forms plaque—the white sticky substance that builds up on your teeth and gumline. The plaque is the true culprit behind tooth decay because it eats away at the enamel.
If your dental caries is left untreated, tooth decay and infections can set in, which is when the real problems start.
Diet soda does not contain sugar, so you may think that you are safe from dental caries when you take a sip. But you’re forgetting about one huge red flag: acid.
Acid is just as bad if not worse for your teeth. And diet sodas are notorious for containing a lot of it.
Phosphoric acid is commonly used as a flavor enhancer in diet soda, but it may come as a surprise that phosphoric acid is also used to strip rust from metal. It may not be hard to imagine what this could do to your teeth. Your enamel is exposed to this corrosive acid each time you open a can of diet soda.
Phosphoric acid also has properties that make it more difficult for your body to absorb calcium, which can damage bone density and natural healing processes. So, not only does diet soda harm your enamel, but it stops your body from performing damage control on your teeth.
This type of acid occurs naturally in many fruits, but that does not mean that it’s safe for your teeth. Like phosphoric acid, citric acid is a flavoring agent used in many diet sodas and other sugar-free drinks. Unfortunately, it also has similar corrosive properties. Juices, sports drinks and carbonated beverages that are marketed as healthy alternatives to soda usually contain citric acid.
Most diet sodas contain both citric acid and phosphoric acid, which is why diet soda is really no better for your teeth than regular soda.
It is important to not forget about the dangers of carbonation. Bubbly drinks like soda, champagne and seltzer water contain carbonic acid, giving the beverages their fizzy qualities. Carbonic acid, similar to citric and phosphoric acid, assaults the enamel. When the enamel is weakened, the teeth become more prone to cavities and decay.
The Healthiest Alternatives
Water: This is probably not a surprise. Water is the best thing to consume for both your teeth and your body for a number of reasons. In many cities, tap water is full of fluoride, and fluoride can strengthen tooth enamel. Water helps to both stimulate saliva production and wash the mouth out, keeping bacteria and plaque off of the teeth.
Milk: Your bones are not the only parts of your body that benefit from calcium. Your teeth and gums get stronger when you drink a glass of milk, because the calcium in milk works to protect them from gum disease and tooth decay.
Strawberries: Strawberries are brimming with gum-building vitamin C. Vitamin C is a key component for collagen production, and collagen ensures that your gums stay strong and healthy. The natural sweetness of strawberries can also curb your sweet tooth and act as a healthy alternative to candy.
Salmon: Fatty fish like salmon and mackerel are among the few good sources of vitamin D. Vitamin D is crucial to your oral health, as it helps your body absorb calcium. Plus, salmon and other proteins are filling, keeping your cravings for sugary snacks at bay.
All In Moderation
Our staff is not saying that you should never drink soda or have other sugar-free snacks. We only recommend that you consume these treats in moderation, and brush and floss accordingly. This way, you can prevent these substances, like carbonation and citric acids, from deteriorating your enamel.
Ask Us How To Care For Your Teeth
If you have any questions about healthy snack and drink options to bolster your oral health, don’t be afraid to give us a call. At Smile Creator of Bingham Farms, we strive to educate our patients about best the dental care practices. Contact us today at Smile Creator of Bingham Farms to schedule an appointment with our talented staff!