Many people have asked me whether or not fruit is bad for your teeth. The answer is that it depends. We all know that the main reason people like fruit compared to vegetables is because of the sugar. The question is, does the sugar in fruit cause tooth decay?
There are six main ways that we eat fruit:
1 - Fresh fruit
2 - Frozen fruit
3 - Canned fruit
4 - Fruit juice
5 - Dried fruit
6 - Preserved fruit, such as jellies and jams
IS FRESH FRUIT GOOD FOR YOUR TEETH?
It might seem counter intuitive to think that a food with lots of sugar is good for your teeth, but fresh fruit is good for your teeth when consumed as part of a balanced diet. In this review paper talking about diet and cavities, the authors stated the following:
"In experimental conditions in which fruit is a major dietary constituent, fruits may participate in the caries process; however, as consumed as part of the mixed human diet there is little evidence to show fruit to be an important factor in the development of dental caries."
If you eat fruit and only fruit all day long, then it may not be too good for you. This study showed that when fruit is eaten very often (as in 17 times per day!), that fruit can start to cause cavities.
Just use common sense by eating fruit as part of a balanced diet and you'll be fine. Fresh fruit also provides valuable vitamins that can even improve your oral health.
IS FROZEN FRUIT GOOD FOR YOUR TEETH?
While researching through academic literature for this article, I couldn't find anything that differentiated frozen fruit from fresh fruit. However, since many people do eat frozen fruit, I thought I would mention it.
Until different studies and experiments are conducted, I would say that frozen fruit is about as good for your teeth as fresh fruit. Frozen fruit is certainly much better than any of the other forms of fruit mentioned below.
Just make sure that the food manufacturers have not added additional sugar to the frozen fruit to make it more pleasing to your taste buds (but more detrimental to your teeth). For example, many companies sell frozen fruit bars that have fruit in them with extra sugar.
IS CANNED FRUIT GOOD FOR YOUR TEETH?
Canned fruit can be good for you! You do need to be careful though. Most canned fruits on the market today are bathed in a sugar-rich heavy syrup. Due to this added sugar, canned fruit can be very harmful to your teeth.
Before eating canned fruit, look on the ingredients label to see if it has added sugar. Most canned fruits will also say "In heavy syrup" or "In light syrup" on the label. This is a giveaway that these products contain excess sugar. While rare, you may be able to find canned fruit with "no added sugar".
Interestingly, every patient that comes into our dental school for comprehensive treatment has to take a diet assessment analysis. One of the questions asks whether or not they eat canned fruit frequently. This helps us determine how "at risk" they are for getting cavities.
IS FRUIT JUICE GOOD FOR YOUR TEETH?
If you take away the most nutritious parts of a fruit, what are you left with? Sugar water and natural flavors - AKA: fruit juice.
When a fruit is juiced, all of the sugar comes out of it and into the solution of juice. This sugar is no different than much of the sugar that is in candy today.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry even recommends restricting the amount of fruit juice that you give your small children to less than one cup per day. They have recognized the devastating effects that fruit juice can have on kids' teeth. I'll cover this topic more in a future article, but recognize the importance of limiting fruit juice intake.
Is Dried Fruit Good for Your Teeth?
Dried fruit is a very convenient, portable snack. It wouldn't be a very bad alternative to fresh fruit if it weren't for one thing: Dried fruit is not good for your teeth. I was able to come up wtih four main reasons why.
1 - The sugar is super concentrated. When you dry fruit, almost all of the water is lost, but no sugar is lost.
2 - Dried fruit is very sticky. I used to eat dried mangoes all of the time and found that they kept getting stuck in my teeth.
3 - When fruit is dried, it releases a lot of the intrinsic sugars from inside of the fruit. These sugars are then available to feed the bacteria in your mouth, which can hurt your teeth.
4 - Dried fruit often has added sugar. This is another one of the ways that manufacturers can sneak sugar into our diet. Popular dried fruit like Craisins Dried Cranberries and many brands of dried mangoes contain added sugar.
ARE JELLY AND JAM GOOD FOR YOUR TEETH?
Jellies and jams aren't good for your teeth at all. The fruit is usually cooked, releasing lots of the intrinsic sugars and removing lots of water. Then, this mixture is thickened and bombarded with sugar.
Jelly and jam might not be so bad, but we usually eat them by putting them on bread. When a mixture of jam and bread gets stuck in our back teeth, it can feed the bacteria in our mouths for a long time until our saliva finally rinses it away.
Fresh fruit is best for your teeth. Fresh fruit is also very portable as it usually comes in its own natural wrapper. Try to limit fruit juice, dried fruit, and jellies and jams. Remember, it is important to eat a balanced diet.
Do you have any questions or comments on fruit and your dental health? Leave them below in the comments!
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