Sugar-free drinks just as harmful to tooth enamel, study finds

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock
Melbourne researchers believe that sugar-free drinks and sweets may still provoke tooth decay after a number of samples they tested were found to contain additives and pH levels that would cause damage to tooth enamel.

Scientists at the University of Melbourne’s Oral Health Cooperative Research Centre measured dental enamel softening and tooth surface loss following exposure to a range of drinks.

They tested 23 different types of drink, including soft drinks and sports drinks, and concluded that​ “sugar-free​” labelling did not necessarily mean a product was safe for teeth.

Many people are not aware that while reducing your sugar intake does reduce your risk of dental decay, the chemical mix of acids in some foods and drinks can cause the equally damaging condition of dental erosion​,” said Eric Reynolds, chief executive of the research centre.

The study found that the majority of soft drinks and sports drinks tested caused softening of dental enamel by 30%-50%.

Moreover, both sugar-free soft drinks, and those containing sugar—including flavoured mineral waters—produced measurable loss of the tooth’s surface, with no significant difference between the two groups of drinks.

And of the eight sports drinks they tested, all but two, which had higher calcium content, were found to cause loss of dental enamel.

Even sugar-free confectionery products that were labelled “Toothfriendly​” were found to be erosive when tested, Professor Reynolds added.

Related topics: Regulation & Safety, Soft Drinks & Water

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