Is the juicing craze fuelling a tooth erosion epidemic?
Fruit juices and smoothies have often been lauded by fitness companies to promote positive images of health and wellbeing but a leading charity is severely concerned that the trend of ‘juicing’ could be leading to irreversible damage for the nation’s teeth.
New research by the Oral Health Foundation into the United Kingdom’s dietary habits has revealed that around two in every five (43 per cent) adults are consuming one or more fruit juices or smoothies every day.
As some fruit juices and smoothies contain up to four times the recommended daily amount of sugar in one serving, the acidity of such drinks could cause substantial tooth wear in the form of dental erosion.
Nigel Carter OBE, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, believes that while there may be wider health benefits associated with fruit juices and smoothies, more people need to be aware of the potential damage they could do to the health of the mouth.
Nigel says, “Fruit juices and smoothies are often sold as a healthy option but while they may provide your body with a variety of nutrients and antioxidants, high levels of natural sugars and added sugars in drinks from concentrate can be bad news for your oral health.
“Every single time you eat or drink anything acidic, with a low pH level, the enamel on your teeth will soften and some of the tooth’s mineral content will be lost.
“The saliva produced naturally will slowly neutralise these acids, however, by consuming sugars too often, your mouth will not have enough time to recover. This causes tiny pieces of enamel to be brushed away and eventually you start to lose the surface of your teeth.
“Tooth enamel is important because it protects the dentine underneath. When this gets worn away, the dentine becomes exposed, which often leads to pain, sensitivity and, finally, invasive dental treatment.”
A previous investigation into 50 fruit juices and smoothies from UK supermarkets, coffee shops and food outlets found that more than half contained at least six teaspoons of sugar, which is the recommended daily limit, while some contain four times the amount of sugar the World Health Organisation recommends an average person should consume in a day.
Dental erosion is usually treated by having either a filling or sealant while more extensive damage could lead to veneers.
Last year in England there were 7.3m fillings undertaken, making up more than a quarter of total NHS dental treatments. There were also 2.2m fillings performed on children.
The Oral Health Foundation’s research is part of National Smile Month, a campaign which aims improve education and awareness about the importance of a healthy smile.
One of the brands supporting the charity campaign is Regenerate Enamel Science, from Unilever, which developed the first ever dental care system able to regenerate 82 per cent of enamel mineral within three days.
Dually qualified dental hygienist and nutritionist Juliette Reeves, who advocates the use of Regenerate for her patients with enamel erosion, believes a diet high in acidity is potentially damaging the teeth and could be a catalyst for an aging smile.
Juliette said, “Tooth erosion caused by dietary acids is one of the most serious oral health issues we are facing at the moment and is a growing problem. This was highlighted by recent research which showed the UK had some of the highest levels of significant tooth wear in Europe, affecting more than half of young adults.
“Tooth erosion is a process that happens to everyone of all ages day-after-day but it can be accelerated due to lifestyle choices such as drinking fruit juices and smoothies too often.
“Erosion starts as an invisible process so it’s a particularly difficult condition to detect early, but left undiagnosed for too long it can ultimately age your smile with the appearance of yellowing, sensitivity, weakness and transparency.”
Fruit juices and smoothies coat the teeth with ‘sticky’ sugars which means the acid attack lasts for much longer than usual.
In addition to consuming these too often, dental experts say that it is the speed in which you drink them that can result in severe damage.
Sipping juices over longer period of time does not give your mouth time to recover from acid attacks. This can be further helped by using a straw to help drinks go to the back of your mouth and help avoid contact with your teeth.
“Fresh fruit is a vital part of your diet and provides you with the nutrients that are needed to stay healthy. Our advice is to eat whole fruit only, and limit exposure to fruit juice,” adds Juliette.
“Fresh fruit contains natural sugar, contains fibres, water and other fantastic nutrients while highly acidic fruit drinks contain added sugars which are far more dangerous.
“Try to limit acidic and sugary food and drinks to mealtimes only, and regularly visit your dentist or hygienist, as they can help diagnose and treat a series of problems that might otherwise go unnoticed.”
National Smile Month promotes three key messages to improve oral health. Brush your teeth last thing at night and on at least one other occasion with a fluoride toothpaste, cut down on how often you have sugary foods and drinks and visit your dentist and hygienist regularly, as often as they recommend.
The campaign is being supported by brands and retailers including Oral-B, Wrigley’s Extra, Polo Sugar Free and Philips.