The Oral Health Cooperative Research Centre has recently revealed that sugar-free versions of soft drinks, sports drinks and confectionary products can wreak just as much havoc on your dental health as the sugar-laden varieties.
“Both sugar-containing and sugar-free soft drinks (including flavoured mineral waters) produced measurable loss of the tooth surface, with no significant difference between the two groups of drinks,” says University of Melbourne Oral Health CRC chief executive Eric Reynolds.
Reynolds and fellow Melbourne Oral Health CRC researchers tested 15 soft drinks (including three sugar-free brands) on extracted healthy human molars that were free of cavities.
They found that despite claims to the contrary, sugar-free products are still potentially harmful to teeth due to high levels of acids that strip away the surface layers of tooth enamel; in advanced stages exposing the softer dentin or pulp of the tooth.
This can lead to chalkiness of the tooth’s surface, pitting, opacity, tooth sensitivity and other issues.
Parents of young children will understandably be concerned about these findings given many believe they are sparing their children’s dental health with sugar-free substitutes.
“We’ve seen bad erosion in the teeth of children aged two to three-years-old, and signs of erosion in permanent teeth of older children,” says Reynolds.
“Banning sugar-containing beverages from schools may have positive health effects for reducing obesity, diabetes and dental caries but it may not reduce the risk of dental erosion.”
What should I be drinking instead of sugar-free soft drinks?
The Melbourne Oral Health CRC researchers recommend fluoridated tap water as the best option for teeth, as well as milk, which is not erosive on teeth
If you must drink or eat an acidic product, rinse your mouth out with water afterwards and wait an hour before brushing your teeth, as doing so can remove the softened layer of tooth.