Sugar is a sweet tasting carbohydrate that is present in most of the food that we eat today. Sugar is present in food either naturally or as added sugars. Natural sugars are found in fruits, honey, vegetables, dairy products, etc. Shelf foods like chocolates, ice cream, cereals, soft drinks, etc contain added sugars. The per person consumption of sugar has increased multiple times due to the added sugars present in most processed food. Are they bad for our teeth?
How bad is sugar for your teeth?
We all know that consuming too much sugar can cause tooth decay. But only a few are aware of how sugar affects our teeth. The tooth decay caused by eating too many sugary foods is not caused by the sugar itself rather, it is caused by the bacteria that feed on the sugar present on your teeth. There are hundreds of different bacteria that are present in our mouth. Some of these bacteria feed on the sugars you eat. These bacteria breakdown the sugar present in your mouth and produce acid which can weaken and destroy the enamel. Enamel is a strong, shiny, protective outer covering present on our teeth. The bacteria and its acids, food debris and saliva combine to form a sticky layer over your teeth which is called plaque. The acids present in the plaque can further dissolve your enamel and further cause tooth decay.
Can the use of sugar-free products or artificial sweeteners prevent tooth decay?
Sugar-free products or sugar substitutes are mainly used by diabetic people or people who want to cut down on the calories from sugary foods. Many people think that sugar-free foods or sugar substitutes do not cause tooth decay because they do not contain sugar. This is too good to be true. Unfortunately, it appears that sugar-free foods can also cause damage to the enamel and eventually cause tooth decay. A recent study showed that 6 out of 8 tested sugar-free beverages caused tooth decay. Sugar-free beverages can soften the enamel by about 30% – 50%. The low pH nature and the added acidic contents can cause significant enamel erosion and eventually causing tooth decay. Reducing your sugar intake by consuming sugar-free foods does not reduce the risk of dental decay. The added acidic ingredients in sugar-free foods can erode the enamel layer thereby causing tooth decay. Thus, sugar-free foods and beverages can cause as much damage to your teeth in comparison to foods and beverages with sugar.