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Sugar free drinks – are they really better than regular soft drinks?

The received wisdom that sugar free drinks are obviously better for our teeth than regular soft drinks is under threat from the latest research in the area. A report on Dental Erosion recently released by the Oral Health Cooperative Research Centre gave a rather blunt indictment of sugar free drinks, stating ‘there was no significant difference in the erosive potential of sugared and non-sugared drinks’. Worryingly, having tested 15 beverages commonly sold in Australian school canteens, the study concluded both sugared and non-sugared drinks ‘produced significant erosion of the dental enamel, with teeth showing measurable weight loss and surface loss’.

How Do Sugar Free Drinks Damage Your Teeth?

So, while banning sugared soft drinks from schools may have a beneficial impact on rates of obesity and diabetes, it may not have the desired effect on the rates of dental erosion if students simply consume sugar free drinks instead. The reason being the high levels of enamel destroying acids present in many sugar free drinks largely negate the effects of the reduced sugar content. However, on the positive side, there is evidence sugar free drinks reduce the likelihood of dental caries.

What Can I Do To Protect My Teeth?

The simple answer, and the only one any self-respecting dentist can truly endorse, is cut both regular soft drinks and their sugar free alternatives out of your diet. This may be easier said than done for those who are accustomed to consuming them daily, but, as well as the dental benefits of less surface erosion and the reduced probability of developing caries, there are a multitude of other health benefits. If you can make a habit of swapping your coke for a water, or your sugar free red bull for a glass milk, you will lower your long-term chances of obesity and diabetes. You will stabilise your blood sugar levels and may even begin sleeping better as a consequence of the drop in your caffeine intake.

If you do succumb to the occasional soft or sugar free drink, remember using a straw vastly reduces their erosive impact, whereas sipping them over a couple of hours has the opposite effect – sipping actually perpetuates the damaging acid attacks. Finally, as serving sizes have increased steadily since the 1950s, it is worth watching the quantities you consume and, of course, brushing your teeth for two minutes at least twice a day and flossing daily.

 

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