Sugar Substitutes vs. Sugar


Brush your teeth, floss, and avoid sugars.  This is what most people are used to hearing from their dentist, including Drs. Versman, Heller, and Beckman.  These are important lessons in maintaining proper dental health, but what about all those sugar substitutes placed in our food and drinks?  Are the substitutes as harmful to tooth enamel as sugar?

In a quick summary, no, sugar substitutes do not offer the same threats to teeth.  In fact, according to the American Dental Association, sugar is not even harmful.  What IS harmful is the bacteria in dental plaque as it metabolizes sugar.  After it metabolizes, acid is released, and that is what breaks down the enamel on teeth.

Artificial sweeteners do not offer the fate of acid production as the bacteria from plaque cannot metabolize them and some even have antibacterial properties called polyols.

What is a polyol? It is a sugar derived from alcohol and it neutralizes acids.  They are often added to sweeteners or gums in order to help add taste without compromising dental health.  This is one of the reasons that Periodontal Associates offers artificial sweeteners at our refreshment bar here in Denver, CO.

The British Dental Journal even suggested that chewing sugarless gum, which includes polyols, helps the prevention of tooth decay as it promotes the flow of saliva and does not break down into acids. “In addition, xylitol’s antibacterial properties seem likely to lead to caries reductions superior to the more modest reductions with sorbitol gum,” stated the article.

The Journal of the American Dental Association also agrees regular use of gum made with xylitol can help prevent decay, stating “Chewing xylitol-sweetened gum, especially for patients who like chewing gum, can be fitted readily into a regimen that includes frequent fluoride exposure, good oral hygiene and regular dental appointments.”

Periodontal Associates does suggest everything in moderation, though.  As sugar substitutes may be less harmful for tooth enamel, it is often used in products that already contain high levels of acid which will then breakdown teeth.

For more tips on proper home care, nutrition, or procedures like dental implants, please call Periodontal Associates to schedule a consultation at (303) 755-4500 or click here.  Feel free to also browse our website at if you are unable to make it to our office in Denver, CO.  We are specifically located in Aurora, CO, but we service patients from the entire Denver metro area. Drs. Versman, Heller, and Beckman look forward to meeting with you!