When it comes to sweeteners and teeth, some options are better than others

sweeteners and teethSome people opt to use honey instead of sugar, thinking that it will have a less damaging effect on their teeth than sugar. Here’s what you need to know about sweeteners and teeth:

Honey do or honey don’t?

Although honey may have some health benefits that sugar does not have, it’s not much better when it comes to taking care of your teeth. Sugar is sugar whatever its form. Honey, which is around 80 percent sugar, is no different. If you are sweetening your children’s oatmeal with honey or dipping their pacifier into honey, you may want to find a better alternative. (Note that children younger than age one should not eat honey at all due to other health risks.)

However, honey does have one advantage over cane sugar: Bacteria take longer to release acid from ingesting honey. That means you have more time rinse with water or brush your teeth after eating honey, which can help minimize damaging effects. On the other hand, honey is sticky, so it can linger on teeth longer if you don’t rinse or brush right away.

Other sweeteners

Sugarless sweeteners, on the other hand, may indeed be a better alternative to sugar when it comes to teeth. It’s not the sugar that ruins your teeth; it’s the bacteria in the plaque that metabolizes sugar and converts it into acid. This process isn’t as much of a problem with alternative sweeteners. In fact, the New York Times reports that certain sweeteners, called polyols, actually break up and destroy bacteria. Sweeteners with polyols include sorbitol and xylitol.

Of course, you are always better off choosing unsweetened cereal, yogurt, tea and coffee whenever possible. You can sweeten your oatmeal and yogurt with cut up fruit as an alternative to sugar. Chewing sugarless gum after meals, rinsing with water and, of course, brushing and flossing will all help reduce the impact of sugar on your teeth.

For more tips on caring for your teeth, contact us. We offer a full range of dental services in south Denver for your entire family, including general dentistry, cosmetic dentistry and sleep apnea treatments.