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The holiday season is one of the best times of the year, but it can also be one of the worst for your diet—or your teeth. One reason nearly everyone loves the holidays is that of the abundant amount of treats available to satisfy your sweet tooth. Many try to avoid the work candy bowl or holiday desserts at family and friends’ houses, but anyone who’s tried to ignore their sweet tooth knows it’s not always that easy.
To combat the craving for the real thing, a lot of people opt for sugar substitutes instead of sucrose, or table sugar.
However, that also begs the question: Are Sugar Substitutes Bad for Teeth and What Can You Do to Make Healthier Choices?
Sugar Substitutes Do Not Equal Dental Cavities
According to the New York Times, sugar substitutes, like low-calorie sweeteners, do not have the same effect as real sugar. The bacterium that lives in dental plaque metabolizes sugar and releases acid that can break teeth enamel down. There’s also good news for those of us who can’t seem to shake chewing gum.
The British Dental Journal found that chewing sugarless gums containing certain sugar substitutes helps prevent dental decay by stimulating the saliva flow. Chewing gum without aspartame is not a bad idea if it contains another type of sugar substitute.
Noncaloric & Sugar Alcohol Sugar Substitutes
There are two types of artificial sweeteners used in foods: noncaloric sweeteners and sugar alcohols.
Some examples of noncaloric sweeteners include saccharine and aspartame, and they do not cause nearly as much tooth decay and dental cavities as real sugar. Noncaloric sweeteners are commonly used in snack foods and drinks and they generally do not add additional calories to foods. Sugar alcohols have about the same amount of calories as sugar. They are found in hard candies and chewing gums. Like other artificial sweeteners, they may also cause less dental cavities than real sugars.
In fact, chewing sugarless gum after meals is a good way to help prevent cavities. Some types of sugar alcohols include sorbitol and mannitol. Chewing gum without aspartame is ok if it still contains another type of sugar substitute.
The University of Massachusetts says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved all types of sugar substitutes. The FDA decides whether to approve sugar substitutes after looking at tests that demonstrate that the “normal use” of sugar substitutes would not cause health problems. However, these tests did not display how safe artificial sweeteners would be when ingested over a person’s lifetime.
A Sugar Substitute to Try: Stevia
A lot of people are raving about stevia, which is a plant whose leaves contain various sweet compounds. These compounds can be 40 to 450 times sweeter than real table sugar.
Depending on what stevia or stevia product you choose, it may leave your food with a bitter taste. This is the main reason many people don’t like stevia. If you experience this, give it another go and try another stevia compound sugar substitute. Stevia is available as dried leaves, tablets, powder or as an extract. This sugar substitute contains zero calories and it also boasts active dental benefits.
One laboratory study found that Rebaudioside A, a stevia compound, hindered the formation of plaque. You can also grow stevia yourself in small pots on your porch or balcony, or in your garden. If you opt for the natural route, all you have to do is dry the leaves for several weeks, then grind them into a fine powder and sprinkle them onto your sweet dishes.
Friendly Dentistry is Fast, Welcoming and Ready to Meet You
If you think Friendly Dentistry is the right place for you, contact us today for a quick quote. We’ll also discuss the type of services we offer and ways you can help prevent plaque and cavities.
We are proud to provide affordable general and specialty dental care to the Greensboro and North Carolina triad areas. Our goal is to seat every patient within five minutes of his or her scheduled appointment time, and we do everything possible to accomplish this. We know your time is valuable to you and by staying committed to honoring your time; we want you to feel how much we value you as a patient. If you are tired of waiting in long lines at the dentist office, give us a call.
We also concentrate on providing affordable dentistry for everyone in the Greensboro and North Carolina triad areas. We offer different financing options and you can apply for them online. We accept Care Credit, Wells Fargo, and other companies, so you have the best choices available to make your dental dreams a reality. (This is subject to credit approval. Ask for details.)