Picture by Mike Ryan

Two recent separate scientific studies have examined the dental benefits of sugar-free confections and apples but should we take the findings with a pinch of salt?

Two recent scientific surveys have put sugar-free confections and apples under the spotlight and come up with some interesting findings regarding how what we eat (and how we eat it) can affect the condition of our teeth.

Dental experts, such as Putney dentist Ethicare, are happy to offer advice to people about how their diet can affect their dental health. This issue is also one which scientific researchers clearly take a keen interest in…

Sugar-free confections

A study published by the British Dental Journal (BDJ) on 7th October 2011 looked at whether sugar-free confections genuinely benefit dental health.

Many drinks and confectionary contain sugar substitutes in an effort to appeal to consumers who want to reduce their calorie intake and protect their physical and dental health.

However, the latest report, compiled by researchers in Boston, Helsinki and Southern Nevada, warned that the term ‘sugar-free’ misleads many people into thinking that sugar-free products are health-risk free for teeth.

The report goes on to stress that the presence of acidic flavourings and preservatives in sugar-free products “may have adverse dental health effects, such as dental erosion”.

Researchers did however acknowledge that polyol-based sugar-free products can decrease dental caries (cavities) and also pointed out that a polyol called Xylitol has been approved as “tooth-friendly” component in sugar-free chewing gum.

Apples and cola

Other new research has found that people who eat apples are 3.7 times more likely to suffer damage to the surface of their enamel than people who consume fizzy drinks.

The study which discovered this was conducted by King’s College London Dental Institute and involved an examination of the diet of 1,000 people aged 18 to 30.

Apples are known to be an acidic fruit which sometimes contain as much as four teaspoons of (natural) sugar.

Study-leader Professor David Bartlett, head of prosthodontics at King’s College, believes that eating an apple quickly can help limit any acidic damage that may be caused by this tasty fruit.

Mr Bartlett said: “Doctors quite rightly say that eating apples can be good for you, but if you eat them slowly the high acidity levels can damage your teeth.”

Dentist Dr Glafcos Tombolis, who runs dental practice Ethicare in Putney, London, has some more advice for health-conscious people who like eating apples and other acidic, but otherwise-healthy, food.

He said: “To reduce the danger of damage it is a good idea to take regular sips of water. It is also best to avoid brushing your teeth immediately after eating acidic food as this is when your enamel is most vulnerable.”

Should you wish to substitute apples for a fruit which is both full of flavour and kind to your teeth then you should bear in mind that the researchers found that grapefruit does not increase the risk of dental damage.

Pickled onions also made the researchers’ approved list – though this might not be so good for those who like their breath to smell minty fresh!


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