Louisiana is the oldest of all U.S. sugar-producing areas, as sugar cane arrived in this state in 1751 and was first planted at what is now an intersection on Bourbon Street. Who doesn’t love indulging in some beignets when visiting New Orleans?
Unfortunately, sugars in food and drinks play a major role in the development of tooth decay. Bacteria within the plaque that forms over teeth uses the sugar as energy and releases acid as a waste product, which gradually dissolves the enamel on your teeth.
There are alternatives to sugar when you are looking to satisfy your sweet tooth; one study found that approximately 85 percent of Americans use sugar substitutes in some form. And they are added to many processed foods.
But are they truly a superior option as it pertains to your oral health?
How Can Sugar Substitutes Be Better for Your Teeth Than the Real Thing?
While no sugar substitutes are truly healthy for your teeth like water or celery are, they are at least better for you in terms of having fewer calories than regular sugar. Studies have shown that while bacteria in the mouth still feeds on these substitutes, they do not feed as quickly on them as they do with regular sugar.
Certain sugar substitutes provide many benefits for oral health. Whereas sugar attracts bad bacteria, some substitutes like polyols have antibacterial properties. Many polyols cannot be broken down by bacteria like sugar can be.
Several studies have indicated that the polyol xylitol may actually inhibit bacterial growth, stopping acid production and thus reducing the risk of tooth decay. It is found in a variety of gum and mint products.
What are the Concerns with Sugar Substitutes for Your Teeth?
Even sugar substitutes have their issues, whether they are safer for your teeth or not. These are still sweeteners, which bacteria will feed on even if at a slower rate, so it is important to rinse or brush after items like diet cola. Sugar substitutes like honey or maple syrup still have the effects of sugar, so they should be consumed in moderation.
Cyclamate, a type of artificial sweetener, has been linked to bladder cancer. People with phenylketonuria, a rare genetic condition, can’t process aspartame properly and should avoid it.
Even the polyols have their risks. A study in the British Dental Journal found that if polyol-containing products also contain acidic flavoring, there is still a risk of enamel erosion and tooth decay.
In truth, both sugar and sugar substitutes have their respective negative attributes, but sugar substitutes can have various benefits for oral health. If you stick to a healthy diet of whole foods and consume added sweeteners in moderation, it’s going to be the best bet for your oral health.
About the Author
At deJong & Plaisance Family Dentistry, we offer state-of-the-art dental care in River Ridge. Our office is comfortable and modern with a friendly staff. Dr. deJong and Dr. Plaisance have each been chosen as a Top Dentist in New Orleans Magazine for more than a decade straight. Whether you need preventive dental care or expertise to fix an existing problem, they are up to the task. For any oral health questions or to schedule an appointment, you can visit their website or call (504) 738-5171.