Fruit juice is often touted as a means of benefiting from concentrated amounts of all the nutrients available in fruit, such as vitamin C and antioxidants. Drinking fruit juice can help to lower the chances of heart disease, cancer and even Alzheimer's disease. In some cases, such as with cranberries, the juice is more palatable than the berries themselves. However, fruit juice is not entirely safe and beneficial, and can harm your teeth in different ways.
Fruit Juice Contains Sugar
Sugar is well known as a substance that is harmful to teeth. It is consumed by bacteria in the mouth and converted to an acid which wears away teeth and causes cavities. Dental plaque is the buildup of these bacteria on the tooth surface. The bacteria can also irritate the gums, leading to gum disease which can weaken teeth and eventually cause them to fall out. Juice often has added sugar, in which case it is known in the US as a juice cocktail or juice drink. Even pure fruit juices contain large amounts of naturally occurring sugars which can affect teeth. In fact, a pure fruit juice may contain more sugar than a soda.
Fruit Juice Wears Away Enamel
The enamel on your teeth is more fragile than it seems. While it is affected by the acid released by mouth bacteria, it can be worn down even faster by the acids in common fruit juices. Fruit juices, such as lime or cranberry, can be more acidic than vinegar and when consumed excessively, can wear down tooth enamel over time, leading to cavities, sensitive teeth and eventual tooth loss. Fruit juice is often used as a substitute for sodas for children, in the belief that the juice will cause less tooth decay. But in fact, it will often cause more damage as it is more acidic (although the juice is far more nutritious). Orange juice in particular has been studied and has been found to decrease tooth hardness and roughen the surface of teeth, leaving them more prone to plaque and cavities.
How to Prevent Tooth Damage
Limiting consumption of fruit juice, and/or drinking juice diluted with water will decrease the amount of damage done by juice to teeth. Brushing regularly and particularly after drinking juice can help to control the levels of bacteria on teeth. Some experts recommend drinking juice with a straw to limit contact with teeth, and juice should never be held in or swished around the mouth before swallowing. Drinking juice quickly is better than sipping it over a longer period of time. Some studies have indicated that increased fluoride may help to lessen the effects of fruit juice on teeth, so use toothpaste with fluoride if possible.
Fruit juice has many beneficial qualities. However, switching to whole fruit, moderating fruit juice intake and otherwise limiting the exposure of teeth to fruit juice will help ensure that teeth stay healthy.