If you want a stellar smile, you probably know you shouldn't be scuffling over to the pantry to grab handfuls of candy throughout the day. Luckily, there are better snacks that actually help your teeth. One of those is fruit.
Here are the best fruits for your teeth, according to a dentist.
1. Fruits That Don't Stick to Your Teeth
Apples, pears and grapes are top fruit picks for pearly whites because these fruits don't stick to your teeth, Nammy Patel, DDS, of Green Dentistry in San Francisco, tells LIVESTRONG.com. "As long as the food doesn't stick to your teeth, you're fine," she says.
An example of a fruit that will stick to your teeth is bananas, Dr. Patel says. Any food that happily hangs out in the grooves and spaces between teeth will provide oral bacteria with, well, food to thrive, and that can increase your risk for tooth decay and cavities.
What these fruits don't do, she says, is actually brush your teeth. So, they can't scrub off plaque that's existing or developed during the day. You'll have to turn to your trusty toothbrush to properly clean your chompers.
2. Fruits That Keep You Full
Apples and pears are also incredible for your health because they pack fiber. As the USDA notes, one medium apple has 5 grams of fiber, and one pear has 6 grams of fiber. And that fiber is an ace at keeping you full.
"When you eat foods that are satiating, you're less likely to keep snacking throughout the day," Dr. Patel says. This keeps the pH of your mouth lower, which will lead to fewer cavities, she says.
While grapes won't stick to your teeth, they're not rich in fiber. One cup of grapes has just 1 gram of fiber. You know your body best and what foods make you feel satisfied, but apples and pears may outperform other fruits when it comes to keeping you full.
The tooth-healthiest pattern of eating? "It's better to eat three meals per day and two apples for snacks than to graze all day long," Dr. Patel says.
3. Fruits That Combat Gum Inflammation
One surprising benefit to incorporating more fruit like apples and pears into your meals and snacks: They may aid gum health.
But, you say, there's sugar in fruit — they call it nature's candy for a reason. Wouldn't that harm your oral health in some way?
Well, get this: In a randomized study published January 2018 in BDJ Open, researchers divided 30 healthy people into two groups. One added fruit to their diet and the other added nuts.
Even though people in the fruit group ate more fructose (a type of sugar found in fruit) than those in the nut group, their gums became comparatively healthier over the two-month study period.
Researchers aren't exactly sure why, but past research also shows that eating fruits and vegetables is correlated with stronger gums, and so it may have something to do with the micronutrients in these foods.
A couple of disclaimers here: First, 30 people is a small study and the results will need to be replicated in a larger group of people. Second, they were asked to eat a lot of each fruit. Like seven apples for a 140-pound person. It's unlikely you're eating that much at home.
Still, eating an apple or two a day doesn't hurt, and it just may improve the strength of your smile.