San Diego kids dentist answers: Does sugar free mean worry free?

Posted: March 4th, 2016 | Expert Advice | No Comments

By Dr. Santiago Surillo | San Diego Kids Dentist

When you’re looking for a food or beverage, do you look for a sugar-free label, hoping it is better for your overall health and teeth? Not so fast, says San Diego kids dentist and orthodontist Dr. Santiago Surillo.

Dr. Santiago Surillo | San Diego Kids Dentist

Dr. Santiago Surillo | San Diego Kids Dentist

“Sugar free definitely doesn’t mean it is safer for your teeth,” says Dr. Surillo. “Just because there is no added sugar doesn’t mean there aren’t other things that are damaging. Yes, sugar can increase the chances of developing decay, but it’s not the only thing we need to worry about. Acids that are found in common foods and drinks are just as much to blame.”

The bacteria that is naturally found in your mouth survives by eating the sugars found in the foods and drinks we consume. When they mix, they create acid that can eat away at our teeth, leading to decay and cavities. But just because you eliminate the sugar doesn’t mean you eliminate the threat – many common foods and drinks have high acid content, and that same acid can be very detrimental to your smile.

Soft drinks, sports drinks and other beverages, including sugar-free options and flavored mineral waters, contain acids that can eat away at our tooth enamel, leaving us susceptible to decay and even worse. But it’s not just drinks you need to worry about, the same can be true for sugar free candies, gums and other food products.

Acidic additives can be found in a variety of foods and beverages, most often ones that are fruit flavored. And these additives leave us at a high risk for erosion, which can then leave our mouths more susceptible to decay. And the longer these acids stay on the teeth, the more damaging they are.

“I advise my patients to avoid sucking on candies, or eating foods that can stick to their teeth, like citrus flavored gummy snacks,” says Dr. Surillo. “It’s also important not to sip on beverages such as sodas all day long, as the more often these acids are introduced, the more they can eat away at the enamel. If you drink a soda, even if it is sugar free, try to do so at a meal and avoid sipping it for a prolonged period of time.”

To avoid damage to your teeth, carefully read the labels of your food and drinks to look beyond the sugar free label for acids and other ingredients that could be harmful to your teeth. Drink plenty of water, brush and floss regularly, and maintain regular checkups with your dentist.

Dental decay is most often associated with harmful bacteria. Acid erosion weakens the enamel of your teeth, and can actually lead to your teeth dissolving. To protect your smile, it is important to eliminate foods and drinks that contain acid. So before opting for that sugar-free product to protect your smile, look at the label a bit closer.

Just because a food or drink says sugar free, that doesn’t mean it is safer for your teeth. Visit San Diego Kids Dentist website to learn more about dental decay caused by acidic additives in drinks and beverages. We are a dual specialty dental practice providing both pediatric dentistry as well as orthodontics for children and adults.

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