Most people know that sugar can eventually lead to tooth decay. For this reason many people have switched to drinking sugar-free drinks in an attempt to avoid the potential damage sugary drinks can have on their teeth. With sugar substitutes such as xylitol and sorbitol being credited with a reduction in tooth decay, sugar-free drinks have been thought to be more teeth friendly. That belief might not be true. The Oral Health CRC, a group of government sponsored researchers from Australia, published a study suggesting that sugar-free drinks contribute to tooth erosion just as much as sugary beverages do.
The researchers tested the effects of 23 common sodas and sports drinks on 70 extracted human molars. They found that those drinks containing acidic additives caused measurable damage to the tooth enamel, even if they did not have sugar in them.
Tooth decay starts to occur when plaque is allowed to sit on your teeth and mix with the sugars in the foods and drinks in your diet. Plaque contains bacteria that feed on the sugars in your food and drink and as the bacteria feeds it creates acid as its waste. This acid can dissolve the hard enamel of your teeth. During the early stages it strips away enamel, called tooth erosion, and then in the late stages it can invade the pulp of your tooth causing the decay.
Although sports drinks contain sugar they are generally considered to be a healthier beverage choice, but they’re not when it comes to tooth erosion risk. Six out of eight sports drinks tested caused enamel erosion and softening. “Coca-Cola and the majority of the sports drinks caused enamel hardness to decrease by 30 percent to 50 percent,” said one of the researchers.
Are you still able to enjoy your favorite sugar-free drinks? We will leave that up to you! Just be sure to check for the amount of acidic additives in the ingredients listed when making your drink selection. And remember not to brush your teeth immediately after finishing a drink, as this can brush away the softened tooth layer. Instead rinse your teeth with water or chew on some sugar-free gum. The gum will help work up saliva and that will rinse away some of the damaging acids.