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Fruit

Oral Cancer and Whole Foods Plant Based Diet
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37,000 people are diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer every year.  That’s more than 100 people per day. Only an estimated half of those diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer will be alive in five years.

Guess how many people die from oral cancer every single day.  24 (Source: American Cancer Foundation.)

Oral Cancer Prevention and a Plant Based DietGuess how many of those 24 people could have saved their lives by eating better and exercising.  8.

That’s nearly 3,000 people every year who could have lived longer had they only made a few simple dietary and lifestyle changes.

This article from the American Cancer Society’s Journal states, “Evidence suggests that one third of the more than 500,000 cancer deaths that occur in the United States each year can be attributed to diet and physical activity habits, with another third due to cigarette smoking. Although genetic inheritance influences the risk of cancer, and cancer arises from genetic mutations in cells, most of the variation in cancer risk across populations and among individuals is due to factors that are not inherited. Behavioral factors such as smoking cigarettes, consuming foods along certain patterns of diet, and staying active across the lifespan can substantially affect one’s risk of developing cancer.”

Dietary Recommendations for the Prevention of Oral Cancer

Last week I was doing an externship at a rural dental clinic.  During some down time, I picked up a copy of the February 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association.  The article Diet and Prevention of Oral Cancer really caught my eye.  My dad passed away from cancer when I was 17.  I’ve always been worried that someday I would end up with cancer too, so the prevention of cancer is something that interests me.

The authors concluded that swapping your regular American diet for a plant-based diet with more whole foods can go a long way in lowering your risk for oral cancer.  They state the following:

Evidence supports a recommendation of a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables as part of a whole-foods, plant-based diet, with limited consumption of meat, particularly processed meat. However, use of dietary supplements (including vitamins, minerals and other bioactive compounds) in the absence of deficiencies has not been shown to confer the same benefits as those of fruits and vegetables, and patients should not use them as a substitute for fruit and vegetable consumption.

The 2011 Cancer Prevention & Early Detection PDF Booklet from the American Cancer Society contains the following recommendations on page 17 that seem to echo the findings above.  The booklet includes these suggestions:

  • Consume a healthy diet, with an emphasis on plant sources.
  • Choose foods and beverages in amounts that help achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Eat 5 or more servings of a variety of vegetables and fruits each day.
  • Choose whole grains in preference to processed (refined) grains.
  • Limit consumption of processed and red meats.
  • Limit consumption of alcoholic beverages, if you drink them. (Have no more than 1 drink per day for women and 2 per day for men.)

In 2002, researchers looked at many of the different studies relating diet and oral cancer.  They published their results in this paper.  Here’s an excerpt of their findings:

On the basis of the findings from the listed studies, there is enough evidence to point to a preventive role of vegetable intake, including green vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, and yellow vegetables, total fruit intake, and citrus fruit intake in oral, pharyngeal, and esophageal cancer development. Yellow fruits are likely to be protective. Carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E are protective, most likely in combination with each other and other micronutrients. The role of vitamin A is not clear because of conflicting findings in the studies reviewed.

These three sources all seem to agree that foods from plant sources have a preventive effect on the development of oral cancer.  However, there are some foods that can increase your risk of developing oral cancer.

What Foods Increase the Risk of Oral Cancer?

Here’s another quote from the article Diet and Prevention of Oral Cancer that I referenced above:

Researchers have found that consumption of salted meat, processed meat and animal fat increases the risk of developing oral cancer. The results of a study conducted by Peters and colleagues showed that high consumption of dairy products is a risk factor for head and neck squamous cell cancers.

Based on the study above, the following foods increase your risk of developing oral cancer:

  • Salted Meat
  • Processed Meat
  • Animal Fat
  • Dairy Products at a High Consumption Rate

Conclusion

In essence, foods that originate from plant sources help decrease your risk of oral cancer, and foods from animal sources increase your risk for developing oral cancer.

If your diet looks similar to foods below, you’re probably doing a good job of lowering your risk for developing oral cancer.

Plant Based Diet and Oral Cancer

If oral cancer can be prevented so easily, isn’t it worth it to make some subtle changes to your diet?

Do you have any questions, comments, or concerns about how your diet can affect your risk of developing oral cancer?  I’d love to hear what you have to say in the comments section below.  Thanks for reading!

7
Do Fibrous Foods Clean Teeth?
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The internet is filled with what I like to call “Dental Pollution.” There are a lot of half-truths and myths about oral health. One of the reasons that I started Oral Answers was to provide facts and truths about dentistry to those that have unanswered questions about their oral and dental health.

Apples - Can they Clean Your Teeth?To dispel these myths, I have created a tag on this blog called Dental Myths.  Every time I set the record straight on a dental myth, I will apply the Dental Myths tag so you can easily find these myth-busting articles.

A common dental myth is that fibrous foods like apples, celery, carrots, lettuce, peppers, and many other raw foods can clean your teeth.

This belief has caused more than a few people, I’m sure, to rationalize their lack of oral hygiene, saying that they can simply “eat their way to cleaner teeth.”

The truth of the matter is that fibrous foods do not clean teeth.

Fibrous Foods Do Not Clean Teeth

In the book, Essentials of Dental Caries by Kidd it states the following about the effect fibrous foods have on teeth:

Health foods are very fashionable nowadays; it has been suggested that fibrous foods such as apples and carrots ‘clean’ teeth, thus removing plaque and preventing caries.  Although fibrous foods are preferable to a sucrose snack, there is no evidence that they can ‘clean’ the teeth.

Fibrous foods simply can’t do the same hard work that the bristles on your toothbrush do every day.

Fibrous Foods Are Good for You

This doesn’t mean that fibrous foods aren’t good for you.  They are great for your body (especially your digestive system), and good for your teeth.  Think about it — if your choice is between an apple, or an apple-flavored Jolly Rancher,  then definitely pick the apple!

Conclusion

As beneficial as fibrous foods are for you, they cannot actually clean your teeth; the only thing at your house that can do that is your toothbrush and some dental floss!

Are there other facts or claims you have heard about oral health that make you wonder or seem unclear?  Leave them below in the comments and I will clear them up for you.

Thanks for reading!

4
Foods that are Good for Your Teeth
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It seems that dentists and dental hygienists have a bad reputation for naming off a bunch of foods that aren’t very good for your teeth.

Well… to get rid of that reputation, I’ve decided to do the opposite.  Here’s a list of 16 snacks that you’ll enjoy almost as much as your teeth will:

List of Foods that Are Good for Your Teeth

Fruit Can Be Good for Your Teeth1 – Whole Wheat Bread – The rise of processed starchy foods over the past few decades has no doubt caused many cavities.  White bread with added sugar seems to now be a staple in many homes.  Rather than reaching for something with lots of added sugar to get your carbohydrates, try some whole wheat bread – your teeth and your body will thank you.  My wife makes this whole wheat bread recipe – it tastes pretty good, too.

2 – Fresh Vegetables – Celery, Carrots, Radishes, Cucumbers, Broccoli, and the list could go on!   Fibrous foods, like vegetables are able to stimulate the salivary glands to release lots of saliva, which in turn protects the teeth.  Vegetables also don’t have as much sugar as fruits.  An easy way to that we have found to add vegetables to our diet is by mixing some together in a salad.  Our favorite is cucumber tomato salad.

Watermelon Helps Clean Your Teeth As You Eat It!3 – Fresh Fruit – Yes, fruit does have sugar, but it also provides valuable nutrients for the body.  Fresh fruit is a great choice because it is also fibrous, which makes it takes longer to chew, which releases more saliva which helps your teeth.  This makes it a good match for a healthy mouth in spite of the sugars it contains.  Canned fruit is also good, just make sure that it’s not soaking in a sugary syrup.  If it has added sugar, it might be doing more harm than good.

For more info on fruit and oral health, read the article Is Fruit Good or Bad for Your Teeth?

4 – Plain Yogurt with Fruit – Most of the brands of yogurt at the store seem to think that when you add fruit to pure yogurt, you need to add a few teaspoons of sugar to make it taste good.  Try making your own fruit-flavored yogurt by adding fruit to plain yogurt.

5 – Cottage Cheese with Fresh Peaches or Pears – I’ll be honest.  This used to gross me out just thinking about it…  It may not sound too appetizing to you, either.  But, I have to say that after trying it, it’s a pretty good snack.  Try it — you might just like it, but maybe not as much as your teeth will.

Cheese Neutralizes Acids and Provides Valuable Nutrients For Your Teeth6 – Cheese – Cheese is great for your teeth since it contains calcium, and phosphates.  It also neutralizes harmful acid created by the plaque in your mouth.  There are even little snack-sized 100 calorie packs of delicious cheese that you can take with you wherever you go!

7 – Soups – Chicken soups in the winter warm you up and make your teeth happy! A warning –  Be careful with certain soups such as stews and tomato soups that contain lots of sugar.

Popcorn is Great for Your Teeth!8 – Nuts -Nuts are a great source of nutrition that won’t harm your teeth.  Peanuts are a great choice.  Watch out for peanut butter, as it can contain a lot of added sugar.  Just make sure that you don’t crack the shells with your teeth!

9 – Popcorn – Popcorn is a great food for snacking on.  It beats out all of the other snacks such as potato chips and cheese puffs because it’s not made of refined starch.  Just be sure to floss after you eat it or your dental hygienist may find some popcorn remains in your mouth at your next checkup.  It happened to me when I was a teenager.  She asked me if I’d had popcorn recently.  I said, “I think so.”  That turned out to be the right answer.

Cows Can Help Our Teeth
Cows give us milk and cheese. Both help our teeth.

10 – Milk – Cow’s milk has three key substances: calcium, phosphorus, and casein.  All of those are believed to prevent cavities.  Many different studies have even shown that after drinking milk, the bacteria on your teeth don’t really do any harm to your teeth.  Here’s one such study, and another one.

11 – Hard Boiled Eggs – They are extremely portable and even come in a natural hard package.  Mix things up and make it a deviled egg – just don’t add sugar.

12 – Meats such as turkey and chicken.  Better yet, add it to some whole wheat bread and make a sandwich that will delight your incisors.  Some processed lunch meats can contain a lot of added sugar, so be careful when shopping.

Sunflower Seeds Are Great for Your Teeth!13 – Seeds like pumpkin and sunflower seeds.  Make your own when you carve pumpkins this Halloween or buy some at the store.  If you buy seeds pre-packaged, just check out the ingredients first to ensure that they aren’t sugar-laden.

14 – Smoothies made from milk, fresh fruit, and/or yogurt – This is a great treat that does have some sugar in it, but it’s much better to get your sugar from milk and fresh fruit than it is to get it from sticky candy such as caramel, jelly beans, sour patch kids, or toffee.

Trident Gum Contains Xylitol - Good for Your Teeth!15 – Sugar-free chewing gum – Sugar-free chewing gum is a great way to promote salivary flow in your mouth.  Saliva can washes away food, neutralizes acid in the mouth, and can repair damaged teeth.  If you can’t brush after you eat, try chewing a piece of gum.  Some gums, such as this Trident gum contain xylitol, which is a sugar-alcohol that can actually kill the bacteria that ruin your teeth.

16 – Sugar-free candy – Sugar-free candy also promotes salivary flow in the mouth.  Sucking on sugar-free candy is much better than bathing all of your teeth in a hard-candy sugar bath for 15-20 minutes at a time.

What Other Tooth-Friendly Foods Can You Think Of?

I’m sure I missed some.  Are there any snacks that you like to eat that don’t hurt your teeth?  Let us all know about them in the comments section below!

17
Fruit: Good or Bad for Teeth?
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Many people have asked me whether or not fruit is bad for your teeth.  The answer is that it depends.  We all know that the main reason people like fruit compared to vegetables is because of the sugar.  The question is, does the sugar in fruit cause tooth decay?

There are six main ways that we eat fruit:

1 – Fresh fruit
2 – Frozen fruit
3 – Canned fruit
4 – Fruit juice
5 – Dried fruit
6 – Preserved fruit, such as  jellies and jams

Is Fresh Fruit Good for Your Teeth?

Fresh Fruit is Great for Your TeethIt might seem counter intuitive to think that a food with lots of sugar is good for your teeth, but fresh fruit is good for your teeth when consumed as part of a balanced diet.  In this review paper talking about diet and cavities, the authors stated the following:

In experimental conditions in which fruit is a major dietary
constituent, fruits may participate in the caries process;
however, as consumed as part of the mixed human diet
there is little evidence to show fruit to be an important
factor in the development of dental caries.

If you eat fruit and only fruit all day long, then it may not be too good for you.  This study showed that when fruit is eaten very often (as in 17 times per day!), that fruit can start to cause cavities.

Just use common sense by eating fruit as part of a balanced diet and you’ll be fine.  Fresh fruit also provides valuable vitamins that can even improve your oral health.

Is Frozen Fruit Good for Your Teeth?

While researching through academic literature for this article, I couldn’t find anything that differentiated frozen fruit from fresh fruit.  However, since many people do eat frozen fruit, I thought I would mention it.

Until different studies and experiments are conducted, I would say that frozen fruit is about as good for your teeth as fresh fruit.  Frozen fruit is certainly much better than any of the other forms of fruit mentioned below.

Just make sure that the food manufacturers have not added additional sugar to the frozen fruit to make it more pleasing to your taste buds (but more detrimental to your teeth).  For example, many companies sell frozen fruit bars that have fruit in them with extra sugar.

Is Canned Fruit Good for Your Teeth?

Canned fruit can be good for you!  You do need to be careful though.  Most canned fruits on the market today are bathed in a sugar-rich heavy syrup.  Due to this added sugar, canned fruit can be very harmful to your teeth.

Before eating canned fruit, look on the ingredients label to see if it has added sugar.  Most canned fruits will also say “In heavy syrup” or “In light syrup” on the label.  This is a giveaway that these products contain excess sugar.  While rare, you may be able to find canned fruit with “no added sugar”.

Interestingly, every patient that comes into our dental school for comprehensive treatment has to take a diet assessment analysis.  One of the questions asks whether or not they eat canned fruit frequently.  This helps us determine how “at risk” they are for getting cavities.

Is Fruit Juice Good for Your Teeth?

Juice is Not Good For Your Teeth

If you take away the most nutritious parts of a fruit, what are you left with?  Sugar water and natural flavors – AKA: fruit juice.

When a fruit is juiced, all of the sugar comes out of it and into the solution of juice.  This sugar is no different than much of the sugar that is in candy today.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry even recommends restricting the amount of fruit juice that you give your small children to less than one cup per day.  They have recognized the devastating effects that fruit juice can have on kids’ teeth.  I’ll cover this topic more in a future article, but recognize the importance of limiting fruit juice intake.

Is Dried Fruit Good for Your Teeth?

Grapes, Raisins, and Your Teeth
Grapes are alright, but when dried into raisins they can cause cavities.

Dried fruit is a very convenient, portable snack.  It wouldn’t be a very bad alternative to fresh fruit if it weren’t for one thing: Dried fruit is not good for your teeth.  I was able to come up wtih four main reasons why.

1 – The sugar is super-concentrated.  When you dry fruit, almost all of the water is lost, but no sugar is lost.

2 – Dried fruit is very sticky.  I used to eat dried mangoes all of the time and found that they kept getting stuck in my teeth.

3 – When fruit is dried, it releases a lot of the intrinsic sugars from inside of the fruit.  These Ocean Spray Craisins Contain Lots of Added Sugarsugars are then available to feed the bacteria in your mouth, which can hurt your teeth.

4 – Dried fruit often has added sugar.  This is another one of the ways that manufacturers can sneak sugar into our diet.  Popular dried fruit like Craisins Dried Cranberries and many brands of dried mangoes contain added sugar.

Are Jelly and Jam Good for Your Teeth?

Jellies and jams aren’t good for your teeth at all.  The fruit is usually cooked, releasing lots of the intrinsic sugars and removing lots of water.  Then, this mixture is thickened and bombarded with sugar.

Jelly and jam might not be so bad, but we usually eat them by putting them on bread.  When a mixture of jam and bread gets stuck in our back teeth, it can feed the bacteria in our mouths for a long time until our saliva finally rinses it away.

Conclusion

Fresh fruit is best for your teeth.  Fresh fruit is also very portable as it usually comes in its own natural wrapper.  Try to limit fruit juice, dried fruit, and jellies and jams.

Remember, it is important to eat a balanced diet.

Do you have any questions or comments on fruit and your dental health?  Leave them below in the comments!