Is milk good for your teeth?

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Last Updated on November 30, 2022 by Dr Gustavo Assatourians DDS

Is milk good for your teeth?  

When we talk about a healthy and balanced diet in regard to oral health, we think of different foods such as vegetables, protein (of any origin), and fruits. We usually incorporate nutrition from milk and its derivatives; however, as the years go by and we reach adulthood and old age, we may generate an intolerance. In countries where the poverty level is high, oral health problems are associated with a lack of adequate nutrition in early childhood.

This raises questions such as: at what point in life is milk consumption good for strengthening teeth? Should I drink milk all my life to keep my teeth healthy? How good is milk for teeth overall? In this article, we will clarify these concerns.

What does milk contribute to health?

Research talks about the benefits of milk consumption for general health. They are not known by everyone. Milk contains essential nutrients for general health, but it has an important impact on teeth and  oral health:

1.  Calcium helps build healthy bones and teeth, allowing muscle contraction and blood flow.

2.  Protein (casein) is important for the repair of muscles, tissues, and the skin.

3.  Vitamin D  bone growth and calcium absorption, while regulating the immune system.

4.  B12 vitamin keeps nerves and blood cells healthy and assists in making DNA.

5.  Vitamin A  is important for reproductive health.

6.  Potassium helps regulate fluid balance, nerve signals, and muscle contractions.

7.  Phosphorus participates in the production of energy in the body and helps absorb calcium at the intestinal level. They must be in balance with no excess phosphorus.

8.  Riboflavin breaks down proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.

9.  Niacin aids indigestion.

These nutrients can be found in various foods; however, a balanced diet complements the body’s needs since an excess of any of them can affect our health.

How does nutrition from milk promote oral health?

Having healthy teeth and gums is an indicator of good oral health. It goes a little further than this since proper hygiene and having strong teeth is key to avoiding gum disease.

Milk and its derivatives are nutritious, delicious, and usually incorporated into different food preparations. One of the main sources of calcium is a diet that includes milk and/or dairy products. Calcium is stored in the bones and teeth, giving them structure and rigidity;  it is also involved in other body functions.

Calcium requirements vary according to age and sex from the moment of gestation during the formation of bones, teeth, and body processes. Subsequently, it is needed for proper development and growth being the most abundant mineral found in the body, 98%  is stored in the bones. The body reserves it for the constant bone growth, among other processes during the lifecycle of each individual.

is-milk-good-for-your-teeth

A large number of studies suggest that milk consumption is highly anti-cariogenic when combined with a typical oral hygiene routine. This effect can be attributed mainly to several factors: the remineralization of the teeth, the inhibition of bacterial colonization, and the inhibition of the biofilm (the sticky film formed by tartar bacteria adhere). This anti-cariogenic benefit is attributed to the following factors:

1.  Casein content: according to studies, it has been shown that it can form a protective film on the surface of the teeth, protecting them from cavities.

2.  Calcium and phosphorus: these minerals help maintain the pH of the body when in balance. Therefore, they contribute to the protection of the teeth when food and bacteria break down the enamel.

3.  Neutral pH: milk and its derivatives help neutralize acidic or very sweet foods and drinks, thereby preventing bacterial growth.

4. They stimulate the production of saliva which acts as a moisturizing vehicle and facilitates the swallowing of food. Salaivahis flow also helps keep teeth clean and healthy.

These and other nutrients promote the maintenance of minerals in the teeth, helping diminish problems in the gums and avoiding the appearance of cavities.

These considerations must be accompanied by good oral hygiene since only the consumption of calcium and other nutrients through food is not enough.The accumulation of food between the teeth generates tartar and promotes an acidic environment that favors bacterial growth, causing cavities and other gum diseases.

 

Alternatives to cow’s milk to obtain these benefits in your diet

For those with lactose intolerance or who do not have the habit of consuming milk, there are alternatives (such as other dairy products) that could  provide the necessary nutrients, and they favor digestion.

  • Yogurt (any presentation)
  • Cheese, especially  mozzarella, cheddar, and cottage
  • Milk serums
  • Ice creams with milk or yogurt
  • Products with soy or almonds such as milk or cheese fortified with calcium (consult your doctor about the required absorption according to age)

Fish, such as salmon or tuna, can help meet your daily needs for vitamin D and calcium. For vegetarians, tofu, kale, turnip greens, and bok choy are  great options.

In children, the consumption of milk at night is not recommended. According to recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, after less than 18 months, bottles should not be administered since usage decreases the flow of saliva, causing the storage of sugars and promoting the appearance of early caries in milk teeth.

 

Bibliography

  1. Johansson I, Lif Holgerson P. Milk and oral health. Nestle Nutr Workshop Ser Pediatr Program. 2011;67:55-66. doi: 10.1159/000325575. Epub 2011 Feb 16. PMID: 21335990, (Accessed 05, 2022). Available in: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21335990/2
  2. Merritt J, Qi F, Shi W. Milk helps build strong teeth and promotes oral health. J Calif Dent Assoc. 2006 May;34(5):361-6. PMID: 16900979, (accessed 05, 2022). Available in: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16900979/#:~:text=Milk%20helps%20build%20strong%20teeth%20and%20promotes%20oral%20health
  3. Gonzales L. Is milk good for teeth? Abascal Dental Study (Internet). Published on Oct 17, 2017, (accessed on 05, 2022). Available in: https://estudiodentalabascal.com/is-good-la-leche-para-los-dientes/#:~:text=Los%20l%C3%A1cteos%20entre%20los%20que, as%20shock absorber%20of%20pH% 20 buccal
  4. Mudge, L. Is milk good for your teeth? LiveScience (Internet). Published on Jun 17, 2022, (accessed on 05, 2022). Available in: https://www.livescience.com/is-milk-good-for-your-teeth
  5. National Institutes of Health. Calcium. US Department of Health & Human Services (Internet). Published on Oct 06, 2022, (Accessed on 05, 2022). Available in: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-Consumer/
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