A dentist has recently come forward to discuss the well-known artificial sweetener and sugar substitute Aspartame, which has caused controversy in recent months. Aspartame was recently declared as being “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” However, dentist Melissa Weintraub has defended aspartame, and pointed out that it can be beneficial to our oral health.

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A dentist has come forward to defend the artificial sweetener Aspartame, which has been at the centre of controversy in recent months.

While this defense might be surprising to some, for dentist Melissa Weintraub, aspartame is a positive thing – representing a vast improvement on sugar [1].

What is Aspartame?

Aspartame is an artificial sweetener which is used in multiple food and beverage products as an alternative to sugar. It has been used since the 1980s.

A common concern that many people have is the fact that aspartame is approximately 200 times sweeter than sugar [2]. Others point to the “artificial” element of this sweetener.

While aspartame is the most well-known artificial sweetener, others exist too, including sucralose, stevia and saccharin. These are also known as sugar substitutes.

World Health Organization’s Findings on aspartame

In July 2023, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), in conjunction with the World Health Organization (WHO), declared aspartame as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” [3].

The IARC determined that a typical adult that weighs around 150lbs would need to consume around 10-14 cans of soda to surpass the recommended intake [3].

This decision caused substantial debate. The United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA) disagreed with this conclusion [3]. They, and other critics, have pointed to the limited evidence for this conclusion.

Dentist Melissa Weintraub’s approach

Despite the concerns raised by the IARC, dentist Melissa Weintraub feels differently. She has defended aspartame, saying that she is “begging people to not give up on” the sweetener [1].

Weintraub says that her “professional concern for oral health” means that having a sugar substitute like aspartame is far better than sugar [1]. Moreover, this is because actual sugar causes significant damage to the teeth, which artificial sweeteners avoid.

One of the main elements of her argument concerns the question of – if artificial sweeteners were banned, would our oral health be better or worse [1]? As Weintraub says, the answer is “obviously”, due to “our relationship with sugar, which humans crave” [1].

The craving for sugar can be difficult to contend with. Therefore, Weintraub points towards aspartame being able to satiate our cravings, which reduces “the urge to consume large quantities of high-calorie, tooth decaying sugar” [1].

Weintraub has also criticized the IARC for the language used in their announcement [1]. Moreover, she has said that the IARC’s announcement “does not consider risk or the likelihood of harm – merely hazard, which is only the potential for harm” [1].

Similarly, Weintraub has argued that using sugar-free chewing gum is much better than chewing gum that has sugar in it [1]. Aspartame is often found in sugar-free chewing gum. Avoiding sugary gum lessens the contact time between sugar and teeth – helping to prevent cavities from forming.

Weintraub points out that chewing gum can stimulate the production of saliva, which aids the remineralization process, which can reduce the level of plaque in our mouths [1].

In regards to the IARC’s concerns, Weintraub has dismissed the supposed link between aspartame and cancer – suggesting the “link to cancer looks tenuous at best” [1].

The bigger picture

Weintraub has pointed out that everything has the potential to be a hazard. For example, Weintraub uses the sun – as while it is “necessary for good health and vitamin D”, overexposure to the sun “will cause a sunburn or even damage the DNA in our cells and cause cancer” [1].

The points raised by Weintraub certainly make sense. While the IARC’s findings have caused concern, there are still many positives associated with artificial sweeteners when compared with sugar.

We need to look after our oral health. While artificial sweeteners may not be perfect, they are certainly better for our teeth than sugar. Trying to eat and drink healthily and avoiding both where possible is highly advisable!

Thinking points…

1) Most people know aspartame for its use in sodas like Diet Coke, Pepsi Max and Dr. Pepper. While it is great that these drinks do not have sugar in, they do all have one thing in common that is bad for teeth – acid. These drinks often have either citric or phosphorous acid, which breaks down enamel and can cause cavities. If you do have a soda, try and drink water afterwards to regulate the acid levels in your mouth!

2) The report into aspartame led to many being shocked at how many common foods and drinks contain aspartame. But regardless of your diet, it is still very important to attend a dental clinic on a regular basis for a check-up! A dentist will be able to take a look at your oral health and provide advice and treatment options if needed. Therefore, check-ups are crucial! We recommend booking an appointment now!

What we offer at Taradale Dental

Taradale Dental is a Calgary dental clinic that provide its patients with a wide range of dental treatment options and advice aimed at improving their oral health.

We advise our patients to attend our Calgary-based dental clinic twice a year for a regular dental check-up. When problems are detected, we have many treatments available. For instance, these include cavity fillings and root canals. To try and prevent problems, it is important to brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss regularly.

Here at Taradale Dental, we also have some cosmetic treatments available! These include dental implants, tooth whitening and Invisalign™! Many people find that these treatments have a positive impact on their appearance, confidence and self-esteem.

In addition, all of our services at our Calgary dental clinic Taradale Dental are in line with the Alberta Dental Fee Guide.

We would love you to visit our Taradale Dental clinic in Calgary! You can find out more about us by visiting our website https://taradaledental.ca.


[1] Weintraub, M. (2023). I’m a dentist. I’m begging people not to give up on aspartame. Available: https://www.statnews.com/2023/08/14/aspartame-who-cancer-sugar-free-gum-oral-health/. Last accessed: 25th August 2023.

[2] United States Food & Drug Administration. (2023). Aspartame and Other Sweeteners in Food. Available: https://www.fda.gov/food/food-additives-petitions/aspartame-and-other-sweeteners-food. Last accessed: 25th August 2023.

[3] United Nations. (2023). Aspartame sweetener ‘possibly’ cancer-causing, WHO agency reports. Available: https://news.un.org/en/story/2023/07/1138732. Last accessed: 25th August 2023.