Cheese May Prevent Cavities, Research Finds

The regular consumption of cheese may help protect teeth against cavities, new research has found. While its long been known that dairy consumption reduces the likelihood of developing cavities — primarily as a result of the high levels of minerals in dairy — the new research has found that cheese appears to be especially effective.

Image Credit: Somerset Cheddar via Wikimedia Commons
Image Credit: Somerset Cheddar via Wikimedia Commons

The methodology of the research is explained in the press release:

The study sampled 68 subjects ranging in age from 12 to 15, and the authors 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 (or protective outside layer) of teeth. “The higher the pH level is above 5.5, the lower the chance of developing cavities,” explains Vipul Yadav, MDS, lead author of the study.

The subjects were assigned into groups randomly. Researchers 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. Researchers 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 researchers speculate that the rising pH levels which accompanied the consumption of cheese may have been caused by the increased production of saliva — caused by the action of chewing. Saliva is the mouth’s means of maintaining a baseline level of acidity. “Additionally, various compounds found in cheese may adhere to tooth enamel and help further protect teeth from acid.”

Something to note, which the researchers don’t, is that hard cheeses typically have notable levels of various natural antibiotics in them — produced by the bacteria which make the cheese.

The new research was published in the journal General Dentistry, the peer-reviewed clinical journal of the Academy of General Dentistry.

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