Brushing, flossing, deep cleanings—you know all of these things are vital to good oral hygiene and cavity prevention. However, let’s face it: These aren’t the most fun of activities. There’s great news for folks who aren’t on a first name basis with their dentist but still want to avoid those painful and expensive cavity treatments.
It turns out that eating cheese is actually a fantastic way to reduce your odds of getting a cavity. All it takes is looking at some foundational information in a new way.
You know that dairy is good for bone strength (after all, those milk advertisements have been ingrained it into the head of every American). Well, teeth are bones just like your femur, hip bone and skull. They require a good amount of dairy in order to stay healthy, and noshing on cheese is a flavor-filled way to get a bigger dairy dose. Plus, it’s a treat and a guilt-free one at that if you opt for low calories options like feta. But what is it about cheese that doesn’t just strengthen bones, but also prevent cavities?
According to Experts
In the spring of 2013, the peer-reviewed journal General Dentistry considered how cheese, and only cheese, might actually be a natural cavity fighter. In the study, 68 teenagers participated and researchers considered the plaque pH in each teen’s mouth before and after they consumed a variety of dairy products. For perspective, pH levels below 5.5 is high risk for tooth erosion and anything above 5.5 minimizes the risk of developing cavities. The lead author, Vipul Yadav, requested that the teens try cheese, sugar-free yogurt and milk.
Split into three groups, each group tried one of the three different dairy products. The teens ate for three minutes and then rinsed with water. Researchers looked at the pH levels at minutes 10, 20 and 30 to find the results. Those in the milk and yogurt group saw no changes, but the cheese group experienced a big spike in pH levels at every single interval. The researchers aren’t completely sure why this happened, but numbers don’t lie.
One theory is that eating cheese required the production of more saliva compared to the other groups, and chewing (as opposed to drinking yogurt or milk) naturally produces more saliva. However, it’s also possible that the makeup of cheese itself is responsible for the higher pH levels. No matter what the reason, it’s clear that cavity fighting pH levels are only achieved with cheese compared to other popular dairy products. “Dairy does the mouth good,” notes dentist Seung-Hee Rhee.
Few people need an excuse to add some indulgent cheese to their diet, and in moderation it might be a great add-on to those pesky fluoride rinses. No matter how you improve your oral health, every little bit helps, but nothing (not even that imported cheese) is going to substitute for regular checkups. So keep on brushing, keep those annual dental appointments, but maybe switch out cheese for ice cream for that post-dentist treat.
Sara Thompson has written dozens of articles on the topic of health. This article was written with the help of the family dentists at Sheron Dental in Vancouver, WA.