Most of us have a sweet tooth that we’d love to satisfy at every opportunity. But we know that doing that can have negative consequences, both for our teeth and our waistline.

The good news is that there are many people out there offering you healthy alternatives to sugary snacks. The bad news is that these alternatives might not always be so good for your oral health, even if they’re sugar free!

A cart of fruit at a market

Damaging Acids

Probably the biggest danger in many of these low-sugar sweet tooth recipes is that they’re often packed with acid. Sugar leads to cavities because it stimulates oral bacteria to produce acid, but your teeth can also be damaged by acidic foods and drinks, and that can make some low sugar and sugar-free snacks even more damaging to your teeth.

One that seems completely harmless is hibiscus tea. It seems like a great alternative to tea with sugar in it, but there’s a problem. It can be highly acidic, with a pH about 1000 times stronger than the point at which enamel breaks down. You can enjoy hibiscus tea occasionally, but don’t make it a regular thing, and make sure you rinse with water afterward!

The same is true for something like a blackberry Cabernet sorbet. It may sound delicious, but it’s 100 times more acidic than the point at which your tooth enamel breaks down.

Sticky Foods

Another problem is that some of these suggested foods can be very sticky. Even if a food doesn’t have a lot of sugar in it, if it’s sticky, this will cause it to get caught on the teeth, and bacteria will take advantage of what sugar there is to make acid.

This is a peril of dry fruit, such as prunes, which can be very sticky, or of something like a sticky chocolate fudge cake: even if it’s grain-free, the sugar will still fuel oral bacteria.

And it’s important to remember that it doesn’t matter the source of the sugar: it will still fuel oral bacteria. You might be switching high fructose corn syrup for agave nectar or honey, but all oral bacteria will see is sucrose, and they love it.

Staining Foods

Staining your teeth isn’t necessarily a health issue, but it can be a negative side effect of some of the so-called healthy snacks. For example, berries are often offered as a great alternative to some other snacks. While these are very healthy in terms of their antioxidant content, they also have a high tendency to stain your teeth. They are high in chromogens, staining compounds that will darken your teeth. And they tend to be acidic, too.

Beverages like coffee and tea aren’t very acidic and if you drink them without sugar they can be healthy, but they will definitely stain your teeth.

Healthy Snacking Means Snacking Less

When everything is said and done, it’s hard to find good snacks that are both satisfying and healthy. When it comes to your teeth, the best strategy is simply to snack less.

This means partly having the willpower to resist the temptation, and it partly means having meals and snacks that are more sustaining. High protein, low-sugar snacks are less cavity-causing, and more likely to sustain you for longer, so favor them when you do have to snack.

For Help Maintaining the Health and Beauty of Your Smile

A healthy, beautiful smile can be part of your overall healthy lifestyle. If you want to maintain it, we can help. Please call 703-349-4277 today for an appointment with Fairfax County dentist Dr. Pamela Marzban in Burke, VA.