Juice cleanses have had their moment in the health and wellness space throughout the 2010s and some have survived into the 2020s. Today, however, even some of the most adamant pro-juicing health influencers and dietary experts are reevaluating juice-heavy diet and detox programs. There are several reasons for this, ranging from inefficacy to blood sugar issues.
Interestingly enough, criticism has come from an unexpected segment of the health and wellness industry—not dietitians or nutritionists, but dentists. As it turns out, juice cleansing regimens can be disastrous for your dental health.
What’s the News on Juice Cleanses?
Hold-out juice cleanse supporters and old high school friends trying to sell you medicinal juice via a pyramid scheme will tell you that a juice cleanse has benefits in every imaginable area. Health claims exist from the obvious, like gut health and bowel regularity, to the more unexpected, like benefits for skin, mental health, joint pain, energy levels, behavioral issues, and more. Depending on the juice and its ingredients, as well as the individual user’s health status, some percentage of these claims may be true.
Overall, though, the value of juice cleansing is not well supported by the available science. In fact, retail juice cleansing programs have been called an outright scam by some nutritionists and former sellers. The juice cleanse trend has been linked to eating disorders, and certain popular “cleansing” juices like grapefruit can even have dangerous side effects.
Add all that to the fact that juice cleanses can lead to weight gain and sluggishness rather than weight loss and energy, and you already have many compelling reasons to avoid miracle diets and cures based on fruit juice consumption. Still, it’s important not to forget those dentists we mentioned earlier. With so much to be wary of, you might even say that fruit juice’s terrible effects on your teeth are merely the final nail in the juice cleansing coffin.
Why Are Juice Cleanses Bad for Your Teeth?
Even 100% natural fruit juices and high-quality products marketed as healthy and organic, drinking fruit juice can do more harm than good due to high levels of sugars and acids. Most of the energy-boosting and weight-loss triggering effects of juice cleanses are anecdotal, and many of the rest are myths entirely. A liquid diet designed to leave you feeling refreshed and detoxified can instead leave you feeling bloated, unwell, and with a grimy, unhealthy mouthfeel.
Fruits are naturally high in sugar—that’s why we like them. In fact, we all need some sugar to power our bodies and stabilize our systems, and the natural sugar in fruits is a terrific way to get it. When we consume too much sugar from any source, however, it promotes tooth decay. In addition to myriad sugar-related dental health issues, sugar-rich juice cleanses can also cause weight gain and dangerous fluctuations in blood sugar levels.
You might even consider yourself lucky if a sugar crash is the only negative effect of a juice cleanse. Messing around with your body’s sugar levels is serious business and can lead to low blood pressure and disorientation in extreme cases.
Fruit juices also contain acid, which eats away at the natural protective enamel on your teeth. Citrus products like orange juice and lemonade are particularly high in these corrosive acids. Once your enamel is damaged, teeth can crack, chip, and corrode further.
The natural colors in many fruit juices, especially those based on berries or dark grapes, will stain your teeth over time. This discoloration is like that caused by coffee or smoking.
Fruit without Fiber
Consuming fruit as a juice rather than whole actually removes the few benefits fruit consumption does have for your mouth. The natural fibers in fruit help to gently clean your teeth and gums when you eat, something that doesn’t happen when you liquefy and drink it. You may also be missing out on key vitamins and nutrients if your juice of choice does not use the skin or pulp of the fruit.
Some people have a hard time believing that something that comes from a natural, plant source could ever be bad for you. The mere fact that fruit juice comes from nature makes it seem automatically healthy to many. However, keep in mind that you wouldn’t eat a poison ivy and pinecone smoothie, and those are both natural, too.
Avoid Damage to Your Mouth
Despite all the dental downsides of a juice cleanse, we know that quality fruit juices can be full of antioxidants and vitamins, not to mention great flavors and refreshment. Fruit can be great for you in a lot of ways, and even juice is not unhealthy when consumed responsibly.
There are a few things to keep in mind if you’re trying to harness the health benefits of your favorite fruits without doing serious damage to your oral health and hygiene.
Consume Whole Fruits When Possible
Whole fruits have better fiber content and may have additional nutrients in the skin and pulpy material that gets filtered out of juices. Juice cleanses give the illusion of powerfully cleaning and detoxifying your system because juices are digested more quickly than whole foods. In fact, the entire “cleanse” will travel from your glass to your bathroom quite rapidly if you’re drinking excessive amounts of fruit juices. In reality, juices have no special benefits that their whole fruit counterparts do not.
Drink Juices in Moderation
Consume a moderate amount of juice. This goes for other sugary beverages, too, and even zero sugar drinks with dubious artificial sweeteners. Try to develop a habit of reaching for water when you’re thirsty, and only incorporate juices and soft drinks in small and occasional amounts.
Substitute nutrient-rich vegetables or vitamin supplements for your fruit juice intake. The real health benefits of most fruit juices are not in “cleansing” or “detoxing” your system at all. Instead, they’re beneficial because whole fruits contain vitamins, antioxidants, fiber, and relatively healthy calories.
Wash It Down
When you do consume fruit juices, follow it up with at least a small drink of water. This helps to wash away the juice residue and prevent it from sitting on your teeth and causing decay or other issues. This double-drinking method can quickly become a bladder issue for someone who drinks a great deal of fruit juice, so refer to our other tip on drinking juice in moderation.
Use a Straw
Environmental concerns notwithstanding, a straw can be a great way to drink juice and other liquids while limiting direct contact between your teeth and the sugars and acids that can harm them. If you really love your juices, consider getting a reusable straw. Most come with carrying cases or bags to keep them clean in your purse, backpack, or car in between uses.
Legit Juice “Cleanses” and Treatments
While the juice cleanse is unfortunately a diet fad, multi-level marketing platform, and dental liability more so than a science-backed nutritional tool, some specific fruit juices can indeed provide real therapeutic effects.
These include the following:
Cranberry Juice For Urinary Tract Issues
Drinking cranberry juice to help with a urinary tract infection, or UTI, is one of the most ubiquitous home remedies. While doctors say that cranberry juice cannot cure a UTI on its own, it is believed that certain compounds in cranberries can prevent bacteria from sticking to parts of the urinary tract, potentially helping to reduce discomfort or shorten the length of infection.
Grapefruit For Potentiating Medicines and Supplements
Grapefruit juice can be used to increase the efficacy of many different medicines and supplements but be extremely careful when trying to harness this effect. This can result in unwanted, dangerous, or even fatal side effects when it comes to certain substances. Grapefruit juice should not be taken with powerful heart drugs, for example.
Orange Juice For Vitamin C
Our immune systems can’t function well without adequate levels of vitamin C, and this inevitably leads to health problems. Scurvy is linked to the sailors of old and their consumption of citrus fruits to stave off its effects. Today, deficient vitamin C levels can make you susceptible to dry skin, anemia, thyroid issues, and more.
Cherry Juice For Inflammation
Tart cherry juice has a high level of antioxidants with anti-inflammatory properties. Some compendiums of home remedies even suggest cherry juice as a viable treatment for gout.
Of course, not everything you consume in your life must be evaluated through the lens of health supplementation. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with drinking juice simply because it tastes good to you. Just do so in moderation and try to find an opportunity to rinse your teeth afterwards.
An Antioxidant and Vitamin Rich Nutrition Plan Beyond Fruit Juice
Ongoing acidity and damage to enamel can cause tooth sensitivity. Luckily, topical dental gel and solutions help alleviate discomfort.
However, if you are thinking of juicing for health reasons, remember that loading up on sugary juices is not worth the risk—especially when the only “cleanse” taking place is a harsher than necessary power-washing of your digestive tract. Drinking massive amounts of sugar and acid simply does not have the ability to magically “detoxify” your systems. Only time and healthy food choices can do that.
Chief Operating Officer, The Compounding Pharmacy of America
Matthew Poteet, Pharm.D. graduated with Honors from Lee University with a Bachelors of Science in Biological Science. After his undergraduate training, he completed the Doctor of Pharmacy program at Mercer University Southern School of Pharmacy, graduating in 2004. Dr. Poteet has spent much of his pharmacy career on staff at two of the most prestigious academic teaching hospitals in the Southeast; Emory University in Atlanta and Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. At these institutions he received extensive experience and training in sterile products compounding.
He returned home to East Tennessee in 2010, where he has held the position of Pharmacy Director at two sterile products pharmacies in Knoxville. Matthew lives in Knoxville with his wife, Chris. Dr. Poteet is Tennessee’s first Board Certified Anti-Aging Pharmacist by the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine.