That’s because sugar-free foods and beverages can be made with sugar replacers known as polyols, or sugar alcohols. These are a group of low-digestible carbohydrates that taste like sugar but, according to both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the American Dental Association (ADA), can help you avoid tooth decay.
The ADA adds that many factors play a role in tooth decay, including cavity-causing bacteria (polyols are not readily converted to acids by bacteria in the mouth); the availability of fluoride; the type of sugars or starches you eat; how often you eat them; and how well you take care of your teeth. In fact, toothpaste and mouthwash may get their clean, sweet taste from polyols.
While the ADA recognizes the importance of overall good nutrition and states “it is neither advisable nor appropriate to eliminate from the American diet sugar-containing foods that provide necessary energy value for optimal nutrition,” it strongly recommends “that major efforts be made to promote the use of sugar-free foods or chewing substances in place of sugar-containing foods that involve a frequent intake or repeated oral use…use of these sugar-free products will contribute to improved oral health.”
More good news: As the interest in healthful, reduced-calorie, sugar-free foods continues to grow, many additional good-tasting, sugar-free products using the “does not promote tooth decay” health claim are expected to become available.
For further oral health advice, visit the ADA at www.ada.org. For more on polyols, go to http:// polyol.org.