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4 Ways To Prevent Fruit Damaging Your Health

15th September 2015

I recently had the chance to attend the Boroondara Farmers Market at Patterson Reserve on Auburn Road in Hawthorn East. It’s a fantastic, local event and I’d encourage you to check it out for yourself! The Farmers Market was a fantastic opportunity to buy fresh local produce including fruit and veggies, meat - even boutique wines and beers!

My experience at the Farmers Market got me thinking about the wide variety of fresh produce we are lucky enough to have available to us in Melbourne. It also got me thinking about some common misconceptions about fresh food. For example, did you know that eating fresh food is not always the healthiest option for your oral and overall health? In fact it is surprising how much fresh food can actually be harmful to your teeth and mouth!

Isn’t Fruit Healthy?

I often see children with multiple cavities, despite not eating a lot of sweets and brushing regularly. An unexpected, common trend that I’ve found with these kids, is that they eat heaps of fresh fruit as healthy snacks! Scary right?  

Peaches, apples, pears and watermelon are great tasty fruits, but they contain lots of sugar. Unfortunately, even though fruits contain natural sugar, when lots of it is consumed, the effect on teeth is very similar to eating lots of sweets and can cause dental cavities.

The Worst Culprit?

I’ve found that snacks using fruit, despite being marketed as ‘healthy’ are just as bad, or worse, than products without fruit. The biggest culprits I’ve come across are:

1. Dried Fruit

Despite being delicious, the stickiness and gooey bits of dried fruit make them that much more susceptible to becoming stuck on and in between your teeth. These awkward places are tricky to clean, meaning these sugary foods when stuck do damage to your teeth for that much longer.

2. Fruit Juice and Drinks

Although delicious on a hot summer’s day, our favourites such as Orange Juice and Lemon Ice Tea are unexpectedly two of the most erosive and damaging drinks for your teeth! Even more surprising, despite being recommended by certain health plans and cleansing diets, a glass of lemon water is terrible for your teeth in the long term. The daily dose of acidity erodes your tooth enamel over time, resulting in your teeth becoming more brittle and susceptible to cavities.

3. Yogurt

Yogurt is more hit-and-miss than the first two, however large consumption of fruit yogurt can also cause dental erosion and decay. As with all foods, eating yogurt in moderation is critical.

My Recommendations

By now you might be thinking – if fruit is bad for our children’s teeth, is there any snack left that I can responsibly pack into a lunch box? The good news is that most vegetables contain far less sugar than fruits, and are much better for your kid’s teeth. I recommend packing cut-up veggies with dip for morning tea – my personal favourites are carrots, cucumbers and any crunchy vegetables. These snacks not only contain far less sugar, but as a bonus also require lots of chewing. Chewing helps to naturally clean your teeth by stimulating the production of saliva and helping to scrub clean the tooth surface. You also don’t have to avoid fruit and fruit-related snacks entirely! Instead, I’d recommend following these tips:  

1.  Try to eat acidic or sugary fruits (and foods generally) as part of a meal, rather than as a stand-alone snack;  

2.  Limit the amount of high-sugar foods in your kid’s snacks at school;  

3.  Avoid drinking lemon water and fruit drinks in the morning;  

4.  Most importantly, avoid brushing your teeth straight after sugary or acidic drinks! 30 minutes after consuming these foods is when your tooth enamel is at its softest. Brushing teeth during this time will result in brushing away your enamel and doing damage to your teeth.  

Thanks for reading my thoughts on healthy snacks! Following these simple tips will help keep you and your kids healthy and smiling brightly.

~ Dr Patrick Wong
   Dentists of Hawthorn

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