Milk May Help Reduce Tooth Decay Caused by Sugary Foods

Drinking milk after eating sweet foods can reduce the damage sugar can do to your teeth, say researchers in the July issue of The Journal of the American Dental Association.

When you eat food with sugar in it, bacteria in the plaque on your teeth produce acids that attack your teeth and can cause decay (also known as “caries”). Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s School of Dentistry conducted a study to see if drinking milk, apple juice or water after eating a sugary cereal would affect the acidity of dental plaque.

Twenty adult participants visited the study site at University of Illinois at Chicago once per week for six weeks. Based on a computer-generated random order, participants completed different study test search week. At their weekly visits, they either rinsed with a control solution (sugar or sorbitol) or they ate sugary cereal followed by drinking whole milk, apple juice, tap water or nothing at all.

Researchers then measured the levels of acid in the plaque on the participants’ teeth at intervals up to 30 minutes for the cereal only, sucrose and sorbitol groups and up to 35 minutes for the cereal followed by milk, apple juice or ware groups.

They found that found that drinking milk after eating cereal helped lower plaque acid levels the most, followed by water, cereal only and apple juice.

“When discussing the cariogenicity of foods and beverages with patients, dentists and other health care professionals should emphasize that the order of ingesting sugary and nonsugary foods is important and may affect their oral health,” stated the researchers in their article.

© 2017 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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Tips for a Healthy Diet

  • Foods high in sugar are a particularly common cause of tooth decay. Making these foods a treat rather than a staple will help protect your teeth.

  • To maintain a balanced diet, eat a variety of foods from each of the five major food groups.

  • When choosing a snack, go for nutritious foods such as cheese, raw vegetables, plain yogurt or a piece of fruit.