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Sugar-Free Snacks - Safe for Teeth?

Many people turn to Sugar-Free candy, beverages and other snack foods in hopes that they'll avoid getting tooth decay.  

While this is a great idea, be sure to read beyond the labels, because packaging can sometimes be misleading.

Here are some of sugar-related labels I've seen:

* "No Sugar Added"

* "Sugar-less"

* "Diabetic-friendly"

* "Sugar-free"

* "Organic sweeteners used"

* "Naturally sweetened"

Here's where some of these labels can mislead you to think that they are *actually* good for you and your teeth:

While something may not have added sugar, the product could technically still contain natural sugars.  If you think of a fruity granola bar, the dried fruit will still have concentrated sugars (and can still damage the teeth - especially if they're really stick substances).  

Sugar-substitutes may have also been used.  This can be natural sweeteners like molasses or honey which still have the potential to damage teeth.  

They could also be sugar alcohols (like xylitol), which researchers say can actually be good for teeth.  Popular chewing gums like Trident and Pur use this in their products and market them as "good for the teeth".  We're waiting for more long-term studies before we make up our minds.

Lastly, foods labeled "organically sweetened" or "naturally sweetened" doesn't tell you much about their effects on teeth - just because a sugar is "organic" or that it came from a "natural source", it doesn't mean that it will be less damaging.  It's still sugar.

What can we do about it?

Ignore the labels that sell you the product.  Instead, read the ingredients list.

There are apparently over 50 different ways of listing sugar and sweeteners, here are just a handful of them:

* sugar

* cane sugar

* dextrose

* maltose

* glucose

* sucrose

* fructose

* molasses

* honey

* fruit juice

* corn syrup

* rice syrup

* maple syrup

* high fructose corn syrup

* evaporated cane juice

* organic raw sugar

* brown rice syrup

* agave syrup/nectar

* brown sugar

* turbinado sugar

* etc



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