Ask the Dentist with Dr. Mark Burhenne

Episode #43: Does Sorbitol Cause Cavities?

January 04, 2022 Dr. Mark Burhenne - Functional Dentist Episode 42
Ask the Dentist with Dr. Mark Burhenne
Episode #43: Does Sorbitol Cause Cavities?
Show Notes

What do art history and functional dentistry have in common? They both require primary sources when researching a contentious question! Today's question focuses on Sorbitol and whether or not it can cause tooth decay. Dr. B answers this question but also takes us through his methodology when investigating a chemical, so that you can apply critical thinking to the chemicals that affect you daily. From simply googling the question to a deep dive into the literature available using the NIH's PubChem database, follow along step-by-step as the impact of Sorbitol on your teeth is untangled. We discover the most likely cause of the conflicting information available on the internet and how you can identify unreliable sources. We learn what Sorbitol is on a chemical level, how it's metabolized by humans and the bugs in our microbiome, and how it's made. We also touch on Xylitol and why Dr. B only likes some forms of it, and discover the other chemicals that are in Dr. B's investigative crosshairs for 2022. Tune in to learn all of this and more in today's educational episode!

Key Points From This Episode:

  • Using functional dentistry and logic to answer health questions [0:0:31]
  • Dr. B’s qualifications and why he thinks the way he does about chemicals [0:01:31]
  • Today’s question: does Sorbitol contribute to tooth decay? [0:02:56]
  • The web search results that Dr. B sees when he Googles “does Sorbitol cause tooth decay” [0:03:11]
  • How an acid attack can cause tooth decay, and Sorbitol biochemistry after breakdown by the oral microbiome [0:05:35]
  • Why Wikipedia can be a good source [0:06:31]
  • What Sorbitol is made from, the chemical structure of it, and its metabolites [0:07:22]
  • Failure to ferment Sorbitol: why Sorbitol is not digested by oral or gut microbes [0:09:36]
  • How the Glycemic Index works [0:10:31]
  • The forms of Sorbitol in use, and where to check this information [0:11:48] 
  • Why Dr. B likes Xylitol, another sugar alternative [0:15:14]
  • Dr. B’s tips on what makes a good study [0:15:29]
  • PubChem: what Dr. B’s favorite website says about Sorbitol [0:16:39]
  • How to read articles that are behind paywalls: contact your dentist or doctor [0:19:52]
  • Debunking false claims in the media: Sorbitol does not fight decay, while Xylitol does [0:20:17]
  • How studying art history taught Dr. B to value primary sources [0:21:46]
  • Concluding thoughts on Sorbitol, and other chemicals Dr. B is investigating [0:22:34]

How to Submit Your Question:

Record your question for Dr. B at 

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

The Complete Guide to Sugar
Sorbitol on Wikipedia

International Sugar Organization

'RHR: A Beginner’s Guide to Scientific Research'

National Institutes of Health


Sorbitol Metabolism/Metabolites on PubChem

'D-Sorbitol on the Hazardous Substances Data Bank'

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