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Sweets worth celebrating on World Oral Health Day

March 20, 2017

In celebration of World Oral Health Day, the World Dental Federation is encouraging us all to “Live Mouth Smart.” While it may be too much to imagine giving up sweets entirely in the name of dental health, many consumers are turning to sugar alternatives to reduce their intake. But with so many choices out there, how do you know you are replacing sugar with a healthier option?

Consumers may be wary of one particular non-sugar sweetener because of its complicated, chemical-sounding name. But erythritol is actually a naturally-derived, zero-calorie sweetener made from plant-based sugars that is not only a great alternative for taste and caloric reasons—it’s also proven to deliver oral health benefits and is easy to digest. That is why erythritol is appearing in everything from toothpaste and mouth rinse to gum and lollipops.

Erythritol: what the dentist ordered

Erythritol is often selected for products where dental health is key, such as toothpaste and sugar-free candy. A three-year clinical study by Cargill found that children who used erythritol products have less dental plaque, oral bacteria and tooth decay than those using two other common non-sugar sweeteners, xylitol and sorbitol.

The difference is even more dramatic when comparing the non-sugar alternatives with sucrose, or common table sugar. Why? Sucrose ferments in oral bacteria, leading to tooth decay, while erythritol does not ferment in oral bacteria.

Both erythritol-based toothpastes and candies are appearing in medical, pediatric and dental offices as doctors set them out as samples and refer patients to sugar free sweets. In fact, Dr. John Bruinsma, DDS and founder of Dr. John’s Candies, used Cargill’s Zerose® erythritol to create the world’s first line of natural, sugar-free lollipops, THRIVE™ nutritional lollipops.

“Parents bring kids to their dentist hoping to reduce or eliminate dental decay,” said Dr. Bruinsma. “While parents could just say ‘No more sugar, period,’ that is awfully hard for kids to do. Erythritol-based options let kids enjoy sweet treats, without the negative side effects.”
Dr. Bruinsma also has many patients, from children to adults, who complain of dry mouth. He finds erythritol can provide a solution.

“Many people turn to sugar candies when they have dry mouth—yet that is like putting gasoline on fire, as both dry mouth and sugar are leading causes of tooth decay,” said Bruinsma. “Instead, erythritol-based candies stimulate salivary flow and help reduce dry mouth symptoms, without promoting dental decay.”

An option for cancer patients

Dr. Bruinsma and the MaxLove Project have joined together to provide erithrytol-based Thrive lollipops to children going through cancer treatment.

“We have found that THRIVE lollipops work within the dietary guidelines of most pediatric cancer patients,” says Bruinsma. “Perhaps just as important, the sweets bring a smile to their faces. The kids we visit with are going through a very adult experience, but for a moment, they get to experience one of the simple pleasures of childhood—a lollipop.”

When it comes to sugar alternatives, erythritol is a powerful option that proves pronounceability isn’t as important as performance. Whether you want to satisfy a sweet tooth, address tooth decay, reduce sugar consumption or calories, relieve dry mouth or just brighten someone’s day, you can feel better about reaching for a product sweetened with erythritol.