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Sugar-free drinks and lollies cause dental erosion The Oral Health CRC has made an announcement set to rock the sugar-free food and beverage industry worldwide. Their Melbourne-based scientists have warned that regular consumption of most sugar-free drinks and confectionary can cause significant loss of tooth enamel – leading to dental erosion. Dental erosion occurs when acid strips away the enamel and hard tissue of the tooth. In advanced stages, the soft pulp inside the tooth become exposed. Considered the healthier alternative, sugar-free substitutes and products can have positive health effects for reducing the risk of diabetes, obesity and dental decay. However, with the substitution of artificial sweeteners, your teeth are exposed to chemicals with high levels of citrates, tartrates and phosphoric or citric acid. The highly acidic (low-PH) levels of these chemicals cause significant enamel surface softening and loss.

But it doesn’t end there. All of these chemical compounds are also chelators of calcium. This means they bind to calcium resulting in tooth demineralisation. In short, your teeth dissolve. In their study at the University of Melbourne’s Oral Health Cooperative Research Centre (CRC), researchers tested a large variety of sugar-free drinks and confectionary on extracted human molar teeth. The erosive potential of each sugar-free beverage was measured by changes in enamel hardness values. The study found that the majority of sugar-free drinks caused a decrease of 30% – 50% in enamel hardness. In fact, the researchers found there was no significant difference between the two groups of drinks regarding tooth enamel loss. With sugar-free confectionary, tests were also conducted on adult volunteers. The study measured a PH drop in the saliva of all test subjects. The researchers have advised avoiding all fruit-flavoured sugar-free confections, especially lemon-flavoured – which had high levels of citrates.

On an alarming note, the study also found that the Toothfriendly International logo and “Sugar free for healthy teeth” tagline was found on 11 of the 32 tested confections. University of Melbourne’s Oral Health CRC chief executive, Professor Eric Reynolds, is concerned that parents are buying sugar-free confectionary, believing them to be the healthier option for their children’s dental health. Current product testing and labelling regulations for sugar-free foods and beverages are now under review. Professor Reynolds suggests the best choice of beverage to give you and your children’s teeth the best chance is…(you guessed it)…water. And for a healthier sweet treat, eat fruit.

For more tips on preventing tooth erosion from sugar-free products from Professor Reynolds, visit: To read an online briefing paper titled  “The potential of sugar-free beverages, sugar-free confectionery and sports drinks to cause dental erosion” published by the Oral Health CRC, visit: