Many people believe soft drinks labelled sugar-free are completely safe for teeth, but unfortunately we’re finding these aren’t much better than the sugar filled versions because of their potential to cause erosion of dental enamel. The Oral Health Cooperative Research Centre in Melbourne tested a range of sugar-free drinks and lollies on extracted human teeth.
"The majority of soft drinks and sports drinks we tested caused softening of dental enamel by 30 to 50 per cent."
Both sugar-containing and sugar-free soft drinks (including flavoured mineral waters) produced measurable loss of the tooth surface, with no significant difference between the two groups. This is because sugar-free drinks are often high in citric acid (ingredient number 330) and phosphoric acid (ingredient number 338) to make them taste better.
Consumers should also be wary of sports drinks, which contain citric acid for tanginess. When you’re doing vigorous activity, it’s easy to become dehydrated. Saliva is protective and if you have a dry mouth and sip on a sports drink, you provide an environment that helps erosion along, according to researchers. Water is just as good at rehydrating.
Fluoridated tap water is always the best option for teeth, but be aware that bottled water doesn’t have the same benefits, particularly for children. Plain milk is excellent because it’s not erosive at all.
All entries complied by osteopath Dr Wei Chua unless otherwise stated.