TOOTH–FRIENDLY SWEETENER

On my quest to discover all tooth-friendly sweeteners in stores across the United States,

I found hundreds of noncariogenic options. Some are cariostatic.

They are listed here in two groups:

ZERO CALORIE & TOOTH FRIENDLY

< 5 cal per serving.

0 to 100 cal per cup.

Sugar Free.

 
 

REDUCED CALORIE & TOOTH FRIENDLY

Low-digestible carbohydrates.

25 to 50% fewer calories than table sugar.

​Often less sweet than table sugar.

Offer digestive benefits and adverse effects.

Sugar Free.

 

SWEETENERS & DENTAL CARIES

What Sweeteners Cause Dental Caries?

  • Dental caries (tooth decay) occurs when bacteria in our mouth (especially Streptococcus mutans) produce acids by fermenting sugars.

  • Acids produced by oral bacteria demineralize the tooth (dissolve calcium and other minerals), initiating and developing caries. 

  • Since dental caries is initiated and developed in the presence of sugar, it is important to understand what "sugar" really means. 

What Exactly is Sugar? 

  • To most of us, the term "sugar" refers to one sweetener, table sugar, which is sucrose from sugar cane and sugar beet.

  • As I discussed in a blog post titled What is Sugar, Anyway?, the word "sugar" has many definitions and it can be confusing. 

  • Sugar encompasses a wide array of sweeteners from many different sources, not only from sugar cane and sugar beet. 

  • Honey is sugar. Maple syrup is sugar. So are date syrup and agave nectar. In fact, there are almost 100 sugars.

What Makes Sweeteners Cariogenic? 

  • The most common cariogenic components of sweeteners include the following sugars: sucrose, glucose, and fructose. They are metabolized by bacteria in our mouth, producing acid.

  • The more frequent and longer the exposure of our teeth to sweeteners containing sugars, the higher the risk for dental caries. There are many other risk factors for cavities, such as the form and physical properties of the sweetener (liquid, solid, sticky).

  • According to the World Health Organization (WHO), we should limit sugars to < 10% of total energy intake to minimize the risk of dental caries throughout our life course. Ideally, the WHO advises limiting even further to <5%.  

Noncariogenic Vs. Cariostatic Sweetener

 

  • Noncariogenic sweeteners do not promote or may reduce the risk of dental caries, as defined here by the Food and Drug Administration. Noncariogenic sweeteners act in one of two ways: (1) they are slowly broken down by our mouth bacteria to form some acid, or (2) they are not broken down at all by bacteria that cause cavities.

  • Tooth-friendly claims on food labels: The Food and Drug Administration allows sugar substitutes to carry tooth-friendly claims on their labels, such as "does not promote," "may reduce the risk of," "useful in not promoting" caries, if they contain polyols (xylitol, sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol, and isomalt) and rare sugars (tagatose). Read about those sweeteners on my polyols page and my rare sugars page

  • Are all sugar-free sweeteners tooth-friendly? Not all "sugar-free" sweeteners are necessarily tooth-friendly as if they have a high content of acid (low pH), they are not. 

Tooth Friendly Sweeteners

SWEETENERS TO AVOID, LIMIT, OR REDUCE

aka Cariogenic Sweeteners

Sweeteners that increase the risk for dental caries include:

  1. Sugars (aka Caloric Sweeteners)

  2. Sugar Blends (Reduced-Sugar Sweeteners)

  3. Sweeteners with fillers such as maltodextrin or glucose:

Stevia with Maltodextrin and/or Sugars

Monk Fruit with Maltodextrin and/or Sugars 

Aspartame with Maltodextrin and/or Glucose 

Saccharin with Maltodextrin and/or Glucose

Sucralose with Maltodextrin and/or Glucose

NOTE: Not all sugars are cariogenic. Go here to read about "rare sugars."