What if we were to tell you that cheese is good for your oral health? A recent study from the Academy of General Dentistry found that the beloved dairy product can actually protect your teeth against acid, which eats away at the enamel. Researchers Ravishankar Lingesha Telgia, Vipul Yadav, Chaitra Ravishankar Telgia and Naveen Boppana, studied the pH of dental plaque in subjects after they ate different dairy products. While dentists and oral hygienists have praised cheese for its beneficial properties against bad breath in the past, this study focused on the differences between dairy products such as yogurt, cheddar cheese and milk.
Researchers studied 68 subjects who were between the ages of 12 and 15, with consent from their parents, and asked them to avoid brushing their teeth for 48 hours before the study. Then, the scientists determined the pH levels of dental plaque on their teeth in four different sites, which served as a base number to evaluate the effect the dairy products had on pH balance.
All of the individuals were then placed in a group that ate either cheese, milk, sugar-free yogurt or paraffin (placebo). After three minutes of swishing around the mouth or slowly chewing, each participant was checked for their pH balance at different intervals. Researchers found that cheese had the most lasting effect on the pH levels in the mouth - three times as much as milk and yogurt - and milk and yogurt's protective effects only stuck around for 10 minutes, while cheese lasted for 30.
Your mouth is supposed to stay at a pH level of 5.5 or higher to ensure that your teeth's enamel isn't at risk of erosion. Foods that can decrease this balance in your mouth include coffee, soda, sports drinks and acidic fruit. If you have a pH balance that is higher than 5.5, you will have a lower chance of needing cavity treatment and having tooth decay.
"It looks like dairy does the mouth good," AGD spokesperson Seung-Hee Rhee, told Science Daily. "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."
Researchers believe that the increase in saliva flow from eating cheese could play a role in the better pH levels. Saliva works as a neutralizer to wash away acid in the mouth, similar to drinking water. Additionally, the somewhat sticky nature of cheese acts as protection for the teeth against acid and other foods that you consume.
These findings have concluded that cheese has the highest anticariogenic property among the dairy products tested, meaning they can suppress dental caries. However, milk and yogurt are still very beneficial in achieving a proper pH level in the mouth, and can also be used as a preventative measure against cavities. It's important to make sure that you are consuming these dairy products without high levels of added sugar, which can cause erosion. If you frequently sip or chew these products, you can increase saliva flow and protect the teeth.
While it may not be best to include bleu cheese or stinky Romano in your daily diet, you may want to consider healthy snacks like stick or string cheese that are mild and can help you avoid cavity treatments. Cheese can be eaten during a meal or as a snack, but make sure to stick to a 1/3-ounce serving. Hey – now you don't have to feel guilty about that evening glass of wine paired with delicious cheese.