Juicing and Your Teeth: Health Benefit or Oral Hazard?
While practically everyone knows that unhealthy sugary, acidic drinks like soda pop are a leading source of tooth decay, much less attention has been paid to the effect of natural fruit and vegetable juices, despite the fact that “juicing” has become a major trend. This, according to many dentists, is a glaring oversight; some fruit and vegetable-based drinks can be nearly as high in sugar and acid as soda pop, making the “Sip all day, get decay” rule as relevant to them as it is to any other sweet, tart beverage.
The Problem With Juicing
The very thing that makes juicing so attractive from a health perspective—the fact that it condenses the many nutrients present in fruits and vegetables—creates a problem for teeth. The sugars and acids present in fruits and vegetables also end up condensed by this process, plus juicing removes the natural fibre present in fruits and vegetables which would otherwise help to remove some of these sugars from the teeth through its light abrasive effect. According to Dr. Sameer Patel, Clinical Director at London-based dental practice Elleven, from an oral health perspective, fruits and vegetables are better consumed whole. “Fruit’s natural sugar, fructose, is a common cause of cavities as the bacteria in the mouth feed on it, so be careful when you do consume juice as part of a balanced diet.”
Additionally, Dr. Patel suggests drinking juice through a straw and waiting at least half an hour before brushing your teeth to help prevent enamel loss.
How to Choose The Right Fruits and Vegetables for Juicing
The fact that juicing carries oral health risks does not mean we should write off the practice altogether; in moderation, it can provide an excellent way to get a boost of healthy plant-based foods while on the go. Instead, experts recommend that juicers do a bit of research beforehand; some fruits and vegetables are higher in sugars and acids than others, meaning that selecting the right ingredients can go a long way toward creating a tooth-friendly beverage.
Low-acid fruits include:
- Asian pears
- ripe pineapple
Low-acid vegetables include:
- green beans
- leafy greens (lettuce, kale, collards, spinach, etc.)
Almost all vegetables are low in fructose, so using vegetables to balance out the sugar content of low-acid fruits is an excellent way to create a tooth-friendly juice or smoothie without making an overly bitter drink. Likewise, be sure to avoid adding too many citrus ingredients to any juice (e.g. lemons, oranges) as citrus fruits are among the most acidic foods we consume.
As a final note, some vegetables—dark leafy greens in particular—can actually aid your oral health as they contain a great deal of calcium and other minerals which are needed to build and maintain healthy teeth. Cranberries are also a wonderfully tooth-friendly juice ingredient as they contain compounds which help to ward off caries-causing bacteria.
My name is Jeremy Rourke. I’m part of a family of dentists with my father, brother, cousin and nephew also being dentists. I won a University of Sydney Dental Alumni prize for being the top student in my year and graduated with Honours in 1971. I have been a Registered dentist for over 40 years. In that time I have created a few “firsts” in my efforts to stay ahead.