Sugar-free products are popular because they can mean a partial or total reduction in the amount of calories that you get from a snack or treat, but they’ve also gained popularity because of the link between high sugar diets and dental decay. The truth is that sugar-free products actually do have a reduced risk when it comes to your teeth, but that there is still a risk involved, and in fact, that risk can be much worse because of the perception that a sugar free snack is perfectly safe.
In fact, the most commonly consumed sugar free product, diet soda, still contains just as much acid as its sugary counterpart. The difference is that you won’t be getting hit with the one-two combination of high sugar, to fuel bacterial growth, along with the acid that can damage your teeth. That being said, the acid still does damage, and many Americans actually consume an increased amount of sugary foods because they feel they’ve avoided caloric intake through diet soda. That means you may still be getting that very same damaging combination, but in an entirely different way.
As mentioned, acid is a culprit behind the dental erosion that can cause serious damage to a tooth’s stability and protection, and it isn’t restricted to soda. Sugar-free candies that have any level of “sour” flavor actually rely on acid to achieve that characteristic. It’s often parents that want to avoid tooth-damaging candy that give children these sugar-free alternatives, and end up doing just as much damage to the teeth of their children as any other form of candy.
The best solution for parents seeking an alternative is to just cut back on the sweets in any form, and to encourage children to brush their teeth more frequently. It’s also important to instill in them at an early age that sugar-free products are not a free pass from brushing their teeth– the exposure of acid to the teeth means brushing is just as important.
For the moment, there’s just no replacement for regular brushing and flossing. Whether you’re someone that enjoys old fashioned, sugary candy, or the newer and “healthier” sugar-free alternatives, you should brush and floss at least twice per day to avoid dental carries and other oral health concerns.