Can Sugar Substitutes Cause Cavities?

Sugar and starches in the foods we eat are broken down by bacteria and enzymes in the mouth.   During this process certain acids are created that can eat away at the surrounding tooth enamel, eventually leading to cavities.  The severity of a cavity depends on a number of factors including how long the food remains in the mouth, the amount of fluoride present in local drinking water, and overall dental cleanliness.

As an alternative, certain sugar substitutes have been produced boasting the same taste as real sugar but without the harmful side effects.  The question is, do these claims hold up?  Most specifically, do sugar substitutes cause cavities?

Sugar substitutes like “Splenda” or “Sweet ‘N Low” are quite common today, and can be seen in a wide variety of foods as well as by themselves in individual packets.   Most sugar substitutes today are artificially synthesized compounds that produce a product similar to sugar in terms of sweetness.  The difference is that the resulting product isn’t broken down in the mouth the same way that sugar is.

Due to this fact, the enamel decaying bacteria generated from digesting regular sugar isn’t produced.  Therefore, sugar substitutes do not cause tooth decay.