How often do you hear that milk is essential for strong teeth and bones? But you might also have noticed that milk contains lactose, a form of sugar. So is milk actually good for your teeth? As it’s World Milk Day on 1st June, we thought we’d address the facts…
Why is milk good for your teeth?
Milk is high in calcium, which along with vitamins D and K is needed to keep teeth and bones healthy. With a 200ml glass of milk providing around 33% of an adult’s daily calcium requirements, it makes it an easy way to obtain this mineral.
We all know that babies require a lot of calcium to help their bones and teeth grow, and teenagers require more calcium than adults as they’re still developing. But calcium remains an important part of your diet throughout your life. Not only does it strengthen your jaw bone to prevent tooth loss, it also protects bones from becoming brittle and developing conditions such as osteoporosis in later years.
And that’s not all.
Research by Nutrition Australia shows that dairy products, like milk and cheese, help reduce tooth decay.
Whenever we eat sugary foods our teeth undergo an acid attack. But dairy products contain proteins known as caseins that form a layer on the enamel. This protects the teeth from acids released by the bacteria feasting on sugary food particles in your mouth, which is what leads to decay.
What’s more, the calcium and phosphorous in dairy can also help strengthen enamel that has begun to dissolve.
What about baby bottle tooth decay?
You might have heard about baby bottle tooth decay, which is where babies who often fall asleep sucking on a bottle can develop decay in their teeth. Why is this? Well, in some instances babies are given sweetened milk or dummies dipped in syrup (never a good idea). But it’s also because milk contains around 5% natural sugars (the clue is in the -ose ending of lactose).
So, you might well ask: can milk be bad for your teeth?
In the case of children, who are still developing teeth without hardened enamel, milk can be a danger if it’s left on the gums and teeth all night. But then we wouldn’t recommend anyone to go to sleep without having brushed their teeth!
The truth is that the benefits of milk outweigh the cons. According to Nutrition Australia, “Lactose has a low cariogenicity compared to other sugars, which means it has little or no contribution to tooth decay.”
Since it is naturally occurring sugar, lactose is less damaging to the teeth than added sugar, and it doesn’t have particles that get lodged in between teeth.
But, like all things in life, adults should consume milk in moderation and opt for cheese instead which contains even less sugar. That means it’s still a good idea to consume dairy after you’ve eaten something sweet as it will do far less harm than the added sugars you’ve just consumed!
Confused about how your diet affects your teeth? Think you could brush up on your healthy eating or your dental hygiene? Then why not book an appointment with our Notting Hill dental hygienist today.