For decades now, cheese – particularly cheddar – has been the go-to after meal treat recognized by researchers and parents alike as a way to – if not prevent than – at least lessen the likelihood of dental cavities. A new study conducted by Vipul Yadav, MDS appears to confirm earlier studies suggesting that eating cheese helps to prevent cavities. The study sampled a group of 68 youth aged 12-15 to determine the effect on oral pH levels after the consumption of cheese, milk or sugar free yogurt on teeth.
Concluding that the study helps to prove exactly how these products work to protect oral health, Seung-Hee says, “It looks like dairy does the mouth good. 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.”
As a pH level lower than 5.5 puts a person at risk for tooth erosion, (a process that wears away the tooth’s protective enamel) the authors of the study set out to record dental plaque pH in the subjects’ mouths before and after consuming either cheese, milk, or sugar-free yogurt. After three minutes of eating followed by swishing with water the pH level of each subject’s mouth was measured at 10, 20, and 30 minutes intervals. Results concluded;
- Milk – no changes in the pH levels were demonstrated
- Sugar-free yogurt – no changes in the pH levels were demonstrated
- Cheddar cheese – a rapid increase in pH levels at each time interval
These conclusions strongly suggest that cheese has very real anti-cavity properties. The report indicated that the rising pH levels from eating – and actively chewing the cheese – likely helped to increase saliva production, which acts as the mouth’s natural defense against harmful cavity causing bacteria. It is also quite likely that health promoting compounds found in cheese may adhere to tooth enamel and help further protect teeth from corrosive acid.
More good news about cheese
An earlier study conducted by researcher Dr. Judy Buttriss, science director for the British Nutrition Foundation pointed to a protein found in cheese called casein. Casein, when broken down through the process of chewing combines with the calcium and phosphates of the cheese. This process is thought to aid in the restoration of the minerals in tooth enamel essentially forming a protective barrier.
Buttriss’s study at that time determined that the proteins found in cheese reacts with sugars effectively neutralizing their corrosive effect on tooth enamel, suggesting that by eating cheese prior to other foods or sweet desserts there may be a higher level of protection from cavities.
Moderation is the key – and more reasons to eat cheese
Cheese is naturally high in calcium, protein, phosphorus and vitamin A, all of which help to support bone health, including supporting the jaw bone – making it more resistant to the destructive effects of periodontal or gum disease. Obviously, you don’t need to eat a large slab of cheese to reap the benefits—realistically; a small chunk about the size of 1-inch cube – vigorously chewed – is enough to provide protection for your teeth. To avoid high calories associated with whole cheese low-fat options are also available at most grocery stores.
Clearly some foods and beverages are better for teeth than others, cheese being among the more recommended. It is always a good idea to avoid foods that might get stuck to teeth such as; chips, candy or cookies. Instead, eat food that protects teeth like cheese as well as fresh fruits and vegetables, which naturally help to increase saliva flow. Also, adopting a practice of rinsing after eating will help to wash away food particles.
Resources and more information:
- Academy of General Dentistry, New Research Shows Cheese May Prevent Cavities http://www.agd.org/media/156276/dairy_teeth.pdf
- “Cheese Consumption and the Development and Progression of Dental Caries,” appears in the April 2002 Nutrition Reviews
- Eating Cheese Can Help Prevent Tooth Decay APRIL 17, 2002 http://www.webdentistry.com/ Article460.html
- Dental caries, Dietary modification http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dental_caries