Ask the dentist: Sugar-free fizzy drinks aren't body-healthy

Soft drinks with artificial sweeteners may not contain sugar, but they still spell bad news for your teeth, says Lucy Stock of Gentle Dental Care

Soft drinks made with artificial sweeteners are still genuine bad news for our teeth
Soft drinks made with artificial sweeteners are still genuine bad news for our teeth

SO, you've just come out of the dentist and are all revved up, full of good intentions to cut down on the sugar and get your mouth back under control by stopping those teeth rotting once and for all.

It's natural to think that if you swap your fizzy drinks for the sugar-free alternatives that life will be tickety. You will still get the same sweet hit but without the demons of tooth decay and weight gain, right?

Well, not quite... Artificial sweeteners were dreamt up in the lab. They are substances that are terrifically sweet but without the calories.

They come under the names of Aspartame, Acesulfame Potassium Cactitol, Mannitol, Sorbitol and Sucralos. Saccharin is 200 to 700 times sweeter than sucrose table sugar but a lot less of the substance is used.

When it comes to teeth, artificial sweeteners don't cause decay as such. However, to balance out the flavours in drinks, manufacturers often put other chemicals into the drinks to make them more palatable.

In cola drinks you often find phosphoric acid while other drinks, usually the lemon and lime ones, add citric and citrates. These chemicals work as chelators which actually suck the calcium out of teeth causing them to soften and discolour.

So, if you take a lot of sugar-free fizzy drinks the teeth can be left swimming in acid for extending periods of time. The more often you drink them the more the teeth are likely to dissolve away turning them into chalky pitted domes just like sea cliffs eroding away after being battered by decades of waves.

Tooth erosion ramps up considerably if someone doesn't have enough saliva. Saliva is your body's natural defence mechanism which hardens up the teeth by neutralising any acids that we eat or drink.

A dry mouth is a common side effect due to many medicines nowadays especially the antidepressant and pain medications.

The clue that sugar-free drinks aren't body-healthy drinks is that artificial sweeteners are made in the lab. The body is designed for water, so if you're really serious about keeping your pearly whites white, then minimise all processed drinks as much as possible and your teeth will be doing the samba.