One common misconception we have is that sugar free equates to healthy. Unfortunately, this is not how it works. But not many are aware of the negative effect these drinks may have on our teeth.

A recent study was conducted by the Oral Health Cooperative Research Centre (CRC), Melbourne, Australia, which tested twenty three sugar drinks ranging from sports drinks to soft drinks. The study found that the acidic additives contained in the drinks can cause tooth decay.

It is well known that sugar can cause damage to tooth. But it is now being suggested that even these drinks without sugar can also cause tooth decay. This is better understood when we look at the process of tooth decay.

When we consume sugar drink, it forms a plaque on the tooth surface. Bacteria feed on the plaque and convert this into acid. It is this acid that attacks our tooth and causes gradual decay. So, any acidic drink can cause tooth decay, whether or not they have sugar contained in them.

According to Eric Reynolds, a professor at Melbourne Dental School and Oral Health CRC’s CEO, reducing consumption of sugar doesn’t reduce the risk of tooth decay, as acidic drinks can have a similar effect on your teeth. At first, it affects the outer surface of the tooth – the enamel, and then gradually begins to expose the inner core – the pulp.

Experts have been of the belief that sugar substitutes have decreased tooth decay in children, when used in beverages & confectionery items. However, Professor Reynolds advises that even sugar free compounds can cause considerable damage to your tooth, owing to their composition.

In fact, during the study, the researchers state that there was no notable difference in the rate at which tooth decay was caused, by sugar & non-sugar drinks. The study also went on to reveal that these sugar less drinks caused enamel softening by between a half and a half.

Many sugar free drinks, including flavored mineral water can cause tooth decay. Eight sports drinks were tested in the research and it was found that six of them caused tooth decay. The two drinks that did not cause any decay contained high calcium content. The researchers are now insisting that manufacturers should stick a label on these drinks as a warning, so that consumers have better awareness.

Professor Reynolds states that a major concern is that manufacturers have fooled people into thinking that sugar free products are tooth friendly thanks to their labels. But consumers should first check for additives in the drink including citric acid and phosphoric acid in the sugar free drinks, as high levels of these acids can cause considerable tooth decay.

CRC recommends that one should not brush the teeth immediately after consuming high sugar or acidic products, as there is a risk that they may remove the top layer of the softened tooth. They recommend that you rinse your mouth and then brush after an hour. Also after consuming beverages like soda pop, it is recommended that a chewing a sugarless gum would help as it increases saliva secretion. Saliva helps neutralize the acid that is deposited in the teeth. The Academy of General Dentistry state that the worst time to have a sugarless drink is when you feel thirsty. This is because when you are thirsty, you have low saliva levels in your mouth. Saliva helps neutralize the acids in the drink.

It is advised that safer alternatives are chosen to quench thirst instead of carbonated beverages, sports drink or soda pops, as they only make things worse.

Frequent visits to your dentist’s office will also help you keep a tab on your oral health. Dentist may help in replacing lost minerals in the teeth or even suggest fillings or crowns if the erosion is worse.

Source: Family Health Freedom Network