WASHINGTON, June 26, 2013- A study published in the May/June 2013 issue of the journal General Dentistry concluded that dairy products, especially cheese, may help prevent dental cavities.
While there have been numerous studies that confirmed the beneficial effect of dairy on bone health, few studies have focused on the link between cheese and other dairy products and oral health.
Dr. Ravishankar Telgi from the Kothiwal Dental College and Research Center in India conducted the study published in the peer-reviewed clinical journal of the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD).
The study analyzed results from 68 subjects ranging in age from 12 to 15. Researchers compared dental plaque PH levels in the mouths of subjects before and after they consumed cheese, sugar-free yogurt, and milk.
Dental plaque PH levels help determine the chances of developing cavities. A PH level lower than 5.5 signals a risk for tooth erosion (the wearing away of tooth enamel, teeth’s protective outer layer). “The higher the pH level is above 5.5,” explains Vipul Yadav, MDS, lead author of the study, “the lower the chance of developing cavities.”
The study randomly assigned subjects to into three groups. The first group ate cheddar cheese, the second drank milk, and the third ate sugar-free yogurt. Researchers instructed subjects to chew or swish for three minutes and then rinse with water. Study authors then measured the dental plaque PH level in every subject’s mouth before eating, and 10, 20, and 30 minutes after eating.
While the groups that were assigned to drink milk and yogurt did not experience any changes in the PH levels in their mouths, those who consumed cheese showed rapid increases in PH levels at each time control interval. This suggests, according to the study authors, that cheese may have anti-cavity properties.
Researchers hypothesized that increased PH levels in subjects who ate cheese may have occurred due to an increase in saliva production, which is probably caused by the action of chewing. Saliva is the body’s primary way to maintain a baseline acidity level in the mouth. In addition, researchers believe that several compounds in cheese that adhere to enamel may help further protect teeth from acid.
This is not the only study that has elevated cheese’s potential to better oral health. A Japanese study conducted last year found that children born to mothers who consumed cheese and other dairy products during pregnancy were likely to have better oral health and less risk of developing dental cavities than children born to mothers who did not consume dairy products.
Another Australian study, also published in 2012, found that those who consumed soymilk instead of cow’s milk had a higher risk of developing cavities.
“It looks like dairy does the mouth good,” says AGD spokesperson Seung-Hee Rhee, DDS, FAGD. “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.”