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Br Dent J. 2011 Oct 7;211(7):E15. doi: 10.1038/sj.bdj.2011.823.

Are sugar-free confections really beneficial for dental health?

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  • 1School of Dental Medicine, Boston University, Boston, MA 02118, USA.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Various sugar substitutes have been introduced and are widely used in confections and beverages to avoid tooth decay from sugar and other fermentable carbohydrates. One group of sugar substitutes are sugar alcohols or polyols. They have been specifically used in foods for diabetic patients because polyols are not readily absorbed in the intestine and blood stream, preventing post-prandial elevation of glucose level. Additionally they may lower caloric intake.

METHODS:

We searched PubMed, Cochrane Controlled Trials Registry, Cochrane Oral Health Review, Centre for Reviews and Dissemination in the UK, National Library for Public Health and a Centre for Evidence Based Dentistry website up to the end of October 2010, using the search terms 'sugar alcohol' or 'sugar-free' or 'polyols' and combined with a search with terms 'dental caries' or 'dental erosion'.

RESULTS:

Xylitol, a polyol, has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for its non-cariogenic properties that actually reduce the risk of dental decay and recently, the European Union also officially approved a health claim about xylitol as a 'tooth friendly' component in chewing gums. Although the presence of acidic flavourings and preservatives in sugar-free products has received less attention, these additives may have adverse dental health effects, such as dental erosion. Furthermore, the term sugar-free may generate false security because people may automatically believe that sugar-free products are safe on teeth.

CONCLUSION:

We concluded that polyol-based sugar-free products may decrease dental caries incidence but they may bring another dental health risk, dental erosion, if they contain acidic flavouring. There is a need for properly conducted clinical studies in this area.

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PMID:
21979369
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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