Do You Want Cavities or Cancer in Your Coffee?

Mar 13, 2016, by Dr. Becky Coats

Many of us appreciate our daily cup of java for a nice pick-me-up in the morning. And some of us may need a couple more a day (though if you’re drinking it too often, you should consider that you might be experiencing sleep apnea), and that’s okay because coffee can be good for your oral health.

Not everyone appreciates the bitterness of a cup of black coffee, though, so it’s normal to sweeten it (and some of us enjoy ridiculous amounts of sugar in our Starbucks). If you sweeten your coffee with sugar regularly, you are significantly increasing your risk of cavities by fueling the bacteria that produce acid in your mouth, acid that dissolves your tooth enamel. Not to mention the extra calories you could be consuming if you put sugar in your coffee every time you get a cup.

So many of us turn to artificial sweeteners to avoid that risk. But now a new study suggests we might be inviting a more serious risk: cancer.

Does Splenda Cause Cancer?

In this new study, researchers fed mice very large doses of sucralose, the sweetening agent in Splenda. They found that the rats developed cancer and, in particular, leukemia, when they ate more sucralose.

For the study, published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, researchers put 457 male mice and 396 female mice on diets that included 0, 500, 2000, 8000, or 16,000 parts per million (ppm) of sucralose from 12 days of gestation until death. They found that there were statistically more malignant tumors in the male mice as their proportion of sucralose in their diet increased. In addition, they found that the mice had a statistically significant increase in leukemia at the doses of 2000 and 16,000 ppm.

What Does This Mean for You?

First, it’s important to note that these diets the mice were fed were ridiculously high in sucralose. If you eat an average diet, then each daily packet of Splenda represents about 5.5 ppm of sucralose, since Splenda itself is only about 1% sucralose. That means you’d need to use about 90 packets of Splenda a day to reach the lowest benchmark diet used in this study, so it’s not a major concern for most of us (and those of us using 90 packets of Splenda a day probably have other problems, too!)

But that doesn’t mean that there is no concern. Over time, we can be exposed to larges amounts of sucralose than the mice because our lifespans are so much longer, and prolonged exposure could be as bad as concentrated exposure. This study reminds us that there is no such thing as a truly safe artificial sweetener. Even xylitol has some health concerns. The best practice is to try to cut back on using too many sweeteners.

If you find that your sweet tooth is leading to extra cavities, substituting artificial sweeteners for sugar at least some of the time can be helpful.

If you are looking for a dentist in Grapevine, Texas that can help you manage your oral and overall health, please call (817) 481-6888 for an appointment at Grapevine Dental Care.