By Dr. Mercola
Many people choose sugar-free beverages and gum because they believe they are safer for their teeth.
The sugar alcohol xylitol, which is popular in sugar-free foods, has even been found to help fight tooth decay, and the European Union has approved a related health claim that it is a 'tooth friendly' ingredient in chewing gum.
However, a label of "sugar-free" should not automatically be taken to mean "safe for your teeth." As a new study revealed, even foods that contain "tooth friendly" xylitol have the potential to cause other dental problems …
Sugar-Free Foods May Cause Tooth Erosion
The fact that sugar-free foods do not contain sugar may mean they're less likely to contribute to the formation of cavities in your teeth, however this says nothing about their ability to cause other tooth problems, like dental erosion.
A new review revealed that sugar-free products that contain acidic flavorings and preservatives may in fact lead to dental erosion, even if they contain cavity-fighting xylitol.
The researchers stated:
"Although the presence of acidic flavorings and preservatives in sugar-free products has received less attention, these additives may have adverse dental health effects, such as dental erosion. Furthermore, the term sugar-free may generate false security because people may automatically believe that sugar-free products are safe on teeth."
Unlike cavities, dental erosion is a process of incremental decalcification, which, over time, literally dissolves your teeth. Virtually any food or beverage that is acidic can contribute to tooth erosion, including carbonated beverages like soda, sports drinks, fruit juice, lemon juice and vinegar.
Reducing or eliminating as many erosive beverages as possible from your diet is important if you want to protect your teeth from unnecessary damage, and this has nothing to do with their sugar content, or lack thereof.
So if you're eating sugar-free foods to protect your teeth you are being misled because if the food is acidic or contains acidic flavorings or preservatives, it will still have the potential to damage your teeth. In fact, if you believe there is any benefit to eating foods that contain artificial sweeteners, you are probably in for a surprise …
Artificial Sweeteners Can Damage Your Health and Make You Fat
The fact that sugar-free products can damage your teeth adds to the growing litany of reasons why you're better off ditching these fake foods from your diet altogether.
For starters, artificial sweeteners themselves are toxic. For instance, aspartame (found in Equal, Spoonful, Equal Measure, AminoSweet, Benevia, NutraTaste, and Canderel) is metabolized inside your body into both wood alcohol (a poison) and formaldehyde (which embalms tissue and is not eliminated from your body through the normal waste filtering done by your liver and kidneys). It's been linked to birth defects, cancer, brain tumors and weight gain.
Sucralose (Splenda) was approved by the FDA based on only two human studies, the longest of which lasted only four days – even though animal studies found the sweetener was associated with decreased red blood cells (a sign of anemia), male infertility, enlarged kidneys, spontaneous abortions and an increased death rate.
Further, consuming artificial sweeteners can cause distortions in your biochemistry, and if you drink diet soda in an attempt to lose weight, they won't help you. Instead, most studies looking at this show very clearly that diet soft drinks actually double your obesity risk by stimulating your appetite, increasing carbohydrate cravings, and stimulating fat storage!
Several years ago, I wrote a book called Sweet Deception, in which I expose the many concerns related to the consumption of artificial sweeteners.
It's an extremely well-researched book, and it's as valid today as it was when I first wrote it. I spent over three years and had five health care professionals work on it with me, as the maker of Splenda, Johnson & Johnson, had their legal firm write me a 20-page letter threatening to sue me if I published the book. Needless to say, the book was published and they did not sue me as the information was all true. This is not to say that you should swap your sugar-free foods for sugary varieties, as sugar, too, will wreck your teeth.
A Low-Sugar, Healthy Diet, Not Sugar-Free Fake Foods, is the Key to Healthy Teeth
Cavities form on your teeth when the acid-producing bacteria in plaque dissolve the mineral in your teeth. While microscopic at first, the cavities can increase in size and number until the decay must be drilled out and repaired with a filling or crown, a root canal performed, or the tooth removed. But how do you prevent the proliferation of the bacteria that cause decay in the first place?
By avoiding sugars and processed foods (including sugar-free processed foods)!
Good oral health and strong, healthy teeth are the direct result of a healthy diet. Dr. Weston A. Price, who was one of the major nutritional pioneers of all time, completed some of the most incredible research on this topic back in the 1900s, and it is still very much relevant today.
What he found, and documented in his classic book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, is that native tribes who were eating their traditional diet had nearly perfect teeth, and were almost 100 percent free of tooth decay -- and they did not have toothbrushes, floss, toothpaste, or root canals and fillings.
But when these tribal populations were introduced to sugar and white flour, guess what happened … their health, and their perfect teeth, rapidly deteriorated. Most people whose diet includes very little sugar and few processed foods have very low rates of tooth decay. So the simple act of limiting, or eliminating sugar, and avoiding processed foods -- along with regular cleanings with your natural mercury-free dentist -- will ensure that your teeth and gums stay healthy and cavity-free naturally.
Your Dental Health is a Window to Your Overall Health
Most people regard a cavity as a minor inconvenience, but if your tooth has begun to decay to the point that a cavity is evident, this is a major sign that disease-causing bacteria has begun to overpower your immune system and your body.
Your teeth are constantly under attack from the foods you eat, the beverages you drink and bacteria, so much so that your body constantly works at repairing small amounts of damage to the enamel of your teeth. If you're healthy, this should be enough to prevent cavities from forming, but if the bacteria overwhelm your system, dental decay can result.
Gum disease, which is caused by the long-term effects of plaque deposits and is a major cause of tooth decay, also raises your risk of developing several chronic health problems including:
- Lung disease
- Heart disease
So tending to your oral health is an important strategy for protecting your overall health. This includes not only brushing and flossing but also eating right by avoiding sugar, sugar-free foods and processed foods. In the event you are looking for a sweet treat that will not interfere with your health or harm your teeth, the herb stevia is my favorite option.