According to new research led by Dr Ravishankar Telgi from the Kothiwal Dental College and Research Center, India, consuming cheese and other dairy products may help protect teeth against cavities.
In the study, reported in the journal General Dentistry (paper in .pdf), Dr Telgi’s team sampled 68 participants ranging in age from 12 to 15. The scientists looked at the dental plaque pH in the subjects’ mouths before and after they consumed cheese, milk, or sugar-free yogurt.
A pH level lower than 5.5 puts a person at risk for tooth erosion, which is a process that wears away the enamel of teeth.
“The higher the pH level is above 5.5, the lower the chance of developing cavities,” said co-author Dr Vipul Yadav.
The participants were assigned into groups randomly. Dr Telgi and his colleagues instructed the first group to eat cheddar cheese, the second group to drink milk, and the third group to eat sugar-free yogurt. Each group consumed their product for three minutes and then swished with water. The scientists measured the pH level of each subject’s mouth at 10, 20, and 30 minutes after consumption.
The groups who consumed milk and sugar-free yogurt experienced no changes in the pH levels in their mouths. Subjects who ate cheese, however, showed a rapid increase in pH levels at each time interval, suggesting that cheese has anti-cavity properties.
The findings indicate that the rising pH levels from eating cheese may have occurred due to increased saliva production, which could be caused by the action of chewing.
Additionally, various compounds found in cheese may adhere to tooth enamel and help further protect teeth from acid.
“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,” said Dr Seung-Hee Rhee, spokesperson of the Academy of General Dentistry, who was not involved in the study.