The Most Common Dental Myths About Sugar-Free Drinks—Exposed

Monday, January 8, 2024
The Most Common Dental Myths About Sugar-Free Drinks—Exposed

Sugar-free drinks such as Coke Zero, Diet Pepsi, and Diet Dr Pepper are popular alternatives to sugar-sweetened beverages, but there’s been debate over their impact on your teeth and health, and whether they are healthier options. Are sugar-free drinks bad for you? The truth is that while sugar-free drinks made with artificial sweeteners may have fewer calories than regular sugary drinks, they can still cause some harm. Here’s what you need to know about sugar-free drinks and how they affect your overall health.

Debunking 5 Health and Dental Myths About Sugar-Free Drinks

The words “sugar free” are written in sugar on the top of a black surface.Although sugar-free drinks are marketed as a healthier alternative to sugary beverages, they may not be as beneficial for your health and dental health as the myths surrounding them suggest. Instead, sugar-free drinks use artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose that can have a negative effect on:

  1. Your weight. Many people turn to sugar-free drinks to decrease their sugar intake because they’re lower in calories than regular sugary beverages. However, if you drink too many of them, they can still lead to weight gain. This is because diet drinks often contain artificial sweeteners, which can trigger cravings for other sugary snacks.
  2. Your gastrointestinal health. Drinking too many sugar-free drinks may cause gastrointestinal distress and digestive issues, such as bloating, gas, and stomach cramps. The artificial sweeteners in these drinks can also cause an upset stomach and diarrhea in some people.
  3. Your nutrition. Sugar-free drinks are often void of essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that your body needs to stay healthy. While they may be lower in calories than regular sugary beverages, they don’t provide any nutritional value.
  4. Your heart. Can sugar-free drinks hurt your heart health? Yes. Although they may be lower in calories than sugary drinks like regular sodas, they still contain a large amount of caffeine, which can raise your blood pressure and put stress on your cardiovascular system. Additionally, the artificial sweeteners found in these beverages have been linked to a 9% higher risk of cardiovascular disease and an 18% greater stroke risk.
  5. Your teeth. How do sugar-free sodas relate to dental caries (cavities)? Shouldn’t the lack of sugar be safe for your teeth? Once again, you may be surprised to learn the answer is no. Diet soda and other artificially sweetened beverages contain acids that cause tooth decay. The acids can wear away the enamel on your teeth. Over time, this weakened enamel can lead to cavities or other dental problems.

Should You Stop Drinking Sugar-Free Drinks?

Sugar-free soft drinks can be an occasional treat, but it’s important to remember that they shouldn’t replace water as your main beverage. Hydration is essential for good health, and drinking at least eight glasses of plain or flavored water a day can help prevent cavities and other health problems.

Sugar-Free Drinks and Your Smile

A young father and his daughter brush their teeth in a mirror.

Keeping good oral care habits can protect your teeth from sugar-free drinks:

  • Brush twice a day, but wait at least 30 minutes after drinking to allow your saliva to return to a normal pH level.
  • Reduce the impact of the acid in sugar-free beverages by drinking them with meals or sipping them through a straw.
  • Rinse your mouth with water to help remove acid.
  • Drink milk or eat dairy products after drinking sugar-free drinks. The calcium in these can neutralize the acid.
  • Visit your dentist for regular cleanings and exams and to monitor any impact on your teeth from drinking sugar-free beverages.

Let Penn Dental Family Practice Keep Your Smile Healthy

A young man looks in the mirror after his dentist visit and smiles in a hand mirror.

Are sugar-free drinks bad for you? Not when used in moderation—and when you know the steps to take to protect your teeth. Fortunately, Penn Dental Family Practice can help. Many Philadelphia-area families come to us for their dental care, and we hope you will, too. Download this helpful chart, “The Evidence You Need To Pick the Right Dentist,” to find out why you can trust us and what you can expect. Then, when you’re ready to schedule an appointment, just complete this form or call 215-898-7337. We look forward to seeing you soon.