An apple a day keeps the doctor away!
Or, so the saying goes. But does an apple a day keep the dentist away?
Well, not exactly!
Dental professionals are warning against the sweet and sugary fruit after new research has shown that apples can be just as bad for your teeth as sweets and sodas.
Did you know?
The sugar content of apples has risen over 50% in the last decade, due to new breeds of apples providing a more preferable, sweeter taste. A study in the UK showed that ten years ago, apple varieties like Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, and Organ Pippin contained 10%-11% of sugar by weight. But according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average modern apple now has a sugar content of 15%. That’s the equivalent of four tablespoons of sugar!
What’s in an apple, anyway?
It usually goes without saying at this point that sugar is bad for your teeth, since it causes decay. Beyond the amount of sugar in an apple, apples are also high in acidity, which will erode your teeth, a lesser known effect of one of our nation’s favorite fruits.
‘My kids love apple slices and apple juice! Are you saying they shouldn’t eat apples?’
Most kids love apples, and drinking apple juice, but we should be concerned about the level of sugar they’re consuming from fruits and juices, even if it’s natural sugar – too much sugar and acid can be harmful. We’re not saying apples aren’t beneficial either, though. Here are some of the benefits of eating apples:
- Healthy gums and bones: Apples contain 15% of your daily recommended intake of Vitamin C, which keeps your gums healthy. Without Vitamin C, your gums can be more susceptible to infection, bleeding, and gum disease. Apples also contain potassium, which improves bone mineral density. Your teeth, of course, are bones. Double win!
- Increased saliva flow: The fibrous texture of the fleshy inside of an apple and its skin can stimulate your gums, which increases your saliva flow and reduces cavity-causing bacteria.
- Balanced and healthy in our diets: Apples are loaded with soluble fiber which can help lower cholesterol and improve your blood sugar regulation. Apples also contain antioxidants that can lower cholesterol and decrease the risk of heart disease, cancer, and stroke, meaning better gum and heart health.
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…
Parents may be scratching their heads at the conflicting advice between family doctors and dentists, who have been told to introduce more fruit into the family lifestyle, and encouraged to swap out candies and sodas for naturally sweet treats like apples. Parents know the best way to help children prevent tooth decay and cavities is to monitor eating habits, so what should parents do about sugar? Start by monitoring the amount of sugar intake in your child’s diet. Children should not consume more than 6 tablespoons of sugar, per day.
Myth: Apples are a natural toothbrush. Dated studies tout that as we’re chewing crisp, raw fruit like apples, they’re working to gently and slightly remove plaque trapped between our teeth. However, a PLoS One study from 2018 found that chewing an apple doesn’t remove dental plaque, and may flavor plaque regrowth during the first 24 hours. Eating apples did produce an immediate reduction in bacteria viability, a similar reaction to what happens after you brush your teeth.
Pediatric dentists suggest a balance of foods that aid in supporting the immune system and fight inflammation of the gums, like whole fruits, veggies, lean proteins, and healthy fats like nuts and eggs. Instead of fruit as a snack between meals, the British Dental Association has recommended children should eat cheese. Despite its high fat content, cheese neutralizes acidity that can attack tooth enamel, and the calcium can increase pH levels in your mouth and produce more saliva. Celery and carrots are also great alternatives if you’re worried about sugar intake.
What about all of the fun fall activities centered around apples?
Apple bobbing, heading out to an orchard for apple picking, enjoying crisp apple cider and warm apple cider donuts… wait, what were we talking about again? Ah, apple season in the south! Of course you can partake in all of your apple-centric festivities – in moderation is key, dental experts advise.
The best apple-eating and drinking tips for your teeth:
- Only eat apples at mealtimes, rather than as snacks.
- Leave the skin on the apples, as they’re full of nutrients!
- Limit apple juice in young children and replace with important balanced alternatives like water and milk.
- Eat apples with other small snacks, like cheese, a glass of milk, or crackers.
- Rinse with water after eating apples or drinking apple juice to minimize damage to the teeth.
- Wait to brush after eating apples. We don’t recommend brushing your teeth right after eating any sugary foods. Sugar acts as a sort of sandpaper and can damage your tooth enamel when you try to brush it immediately. Wait at least 30 minutes after a sugary snack like apples, and then brush your teeth.
The apple of our eye: Our South Charlotte Dentistry family!
A healthy dental diet will help your children maintain their oral care, but your children will also need regular checkups to ensure the health of their teeth and gums. Give South Charlotte Dentistry a call today!