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A new study suggests that sugar-free drinks are not absolutely harmless to your teeth as most of us might think. A group of scientists in Australia found that some sugar-free drinks and sweets can be as harmful as those that contain added sugar.
Past research revealed that most sugary beverages damage the dental enamel, which is the coating of the tooth, by softening it by between 30 percent and 50 percent.
But a team of researchers at the University of Melbourne’s Oral Health Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) tested nearly two dozens soft drinks labeled as ‘sugar-free’ and found that some of them may cause irreversible damage to teeth.
The most dangerous beverages were those with a low pH level and those with acidic additives. These types of soft drinks damaged enamel even if they contained no sugar. The findings may puzzle people who long knew only about a link between added sugar and tooth decay.
A plethora of studies had revealed and analyzed the association between the two, but there is almost no research on acidic drinks and their impact on teeth on the long run.
Previous research showed that sugar damages the tooth because it promotes the formation of plaque which bacteria in our mouth chew on and convert it into acidic compounds. Next, these compounds attack the tooth enamel and result in tooth decay. Researchers explained that that may be why acidic sugar-free drinks can also promote tooth decay.
Eric Reynolds, head of CRC and lead author of the study, said that while most people try to avoid sugar to prevent damage to their teeth, few of them are aware that the acidic mix of chemicals in some sugar-free foods and beverages can have the exact damaging effect.
Reynolds added that, just like sugar, acidic foods and drinks damage tooth enamel layer by layer and in an advanced stage it can also lead to the full exposure of the tooth’s inner, soft pulp.
Most dentists agree that sugar substitutes including sorbitol and xylitol greatly reduced risk of tooth decay in kids in the Western world. But the findings of Dr. Reynolds and his team showed that many sugar-free drinks and sweets are still harmful because of the acidic environment they promote within the mouth.
Moreover, the latest study showed that both sugar-free and regular soft drinks can lead to tooth decay by a similar amount. Australian researchers also found that some sports drinks may also promote tooth enamel loss because of its acidity.
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