Eating cheese may prevent cavities

Dairy products are important for good overall health, especially bone health. Eating cheese and other dairy products also might help protect teeth against cavities, according to a study published in the May/June issue of General Dentistry

Researchers randomly assigned 68 participants aged 12 to 15 to one of four groups: cheese, milk, sugar-free yogurt or control (paraffin). The subjects chewed or swished their product for three minutes and then swished their mouths with water. Researchers measured the dental plaque pH level at four sites in each participant's mouth at before consumption and at 10, 20 and 30 minutes after consumption.

The subjects in the milk, sugar-free yogurt and paraffin groups had no significant changes in the pH levels in their mouths. The pH levels for those who ate cheese, however, increased rapidly at each interval, suggesting that cheese has anticavity properties.

A pH level lower than 5.5 puts a person at risk of tooth erosion, which is a process that wears away tooth enamel. "The higher the pH level is above 5.5, the lower the chance of developing cavities," explains Vipul Yadav, lead author of the study.

The study findings showed that the rising pH levels in the cheese group might have occurred because of increased saliva production, which could have been caused by chewing. Also, various compounds found in cheese may adhere to tooth enamel and help protect teeth from acid.

"It looks like dairy does the mouth good," says Academy of General Dentistry spokesperson Dr. Seung-Hee Rhee, "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."

Patients also can get more information on diet and dental health at the ADA's consumer website, MouthHealthy.org.

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