Many studies have come out announcing the importance of dairy products in relation to bone health, particularly for growing teens. Research reported by the National Dairy Council, for example, reveals that adolescents who consume dairy foods have stronger bones and better overall nutrition.
But if you think milk does a body good, new research has uncovered how beneficial some other key dairy products are for teens’ dental health.
A new study published in the May/June 2013 issue of General Dentistry, examines how eating dairy products such as cheese may help do battle in the fight against cavities.
Participants in the study sample included 68 adolescents, ages 12 to 15. The pH level of their dental plaque was measured before and after they ate cheese, milk or sugar-free yogurt. A pH level lower than 5.5 means a person may be at risk for tooth erosion, a process where the protective covering of the tooth, or enamel, is worn away, which is how cavities form.
“The higher the pH level is above 5.5, the lower the chance of developing cavities,” explained Vipul Yadav, lead author of the study and post-graduate student for the Department of Public Health Dentistry at Kothiwal Dental College and Research Centre in Uttar Pradesh, India.
Study participants were assigned to three groups at random. The first group was told to eat cheddar cheese, the second group was asked to drink milk, and the third group ate sugar-free yogurt. Each group ate their products over the course of 3 minutes and then swished with water. Researchers then measured pH levels of each participant’s mouth at intervals of 10, 20 and 30 minutes after eating.
Those who consumed cheese showed a fast increase in pH levels at each time interval, suggesting that cheese has anti-cavity properties.
Those who consumed the milk and the sugar-free yogurt showed no pH level changes in their mouths.
Study results indicate that saliva production from eating cheese may have caused the pH levels to rise. When we produce saliva, it’s the mouth’s natural way to maintain a baseline acidity level. Also, various cheese compounds may stick to tooth enamel and help protect teeth from acid.
“It looks like dairy does the mouth good, says the Academy of General Dentistry’s spokesperson Dr. Seung-Hee Rhee, a dentist. “Not only are dairy products a healthy alternative to carb-or sugar-filled snacks, they also may be considered as a preventive measure against cavities.”