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Friday, 14 June 2013

Can cheese fight cavities? We sure hope so

As if the smooth, creamy and sharp taste of cheese is not reason to devour it with little regard for its fatty insides, now we have another rationale for chowing down.

A new U.S. Academy of General Dentistry study finds that cheese helps reduce cavities forming in teeth because it neutralizes plaque acid.

The study, published in the May/June 2013 issue of General Dentistry, reveals that cheese makes the mouth more alkaline, which in turn reduces the need for dental treatment related to cavities.

"It looks like dairy does the mouth good," says dentist and AGD spokesperson Seung-Hee Rhee. "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."

Also see: Popular drink as bad for your teeth as meth?

Researchers examined 68 participants ranging in age from 12 to 15, assessing their dental plaque pH before and after they consumed cheese, milk, or sugar-free yogurt.

The participants, randomly assigned to one of three groups, were instructed to eat either cheddar cheese, milk, or 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 higher the pH level is above 5.5, the lower the chance of developing cavities," explains lead author and dental researcher Vipul Yadav.

A pH level lower than 5.5 means a person may be at risk for tooth enamel erosion, a process where the protective enamel covering the tooth is worn away, allowing bacteria to penetrate the tooth and cause cavities.

The participant 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.

Also see: Smile saboteurs that are ruining your teeth

The study indicated that the rising pH levels from eating cheese may have occurred due to increased saliva production (the mouth's natural way to maintain a baseline acidity level), which could be caused by the action of chewing.

They also discovered that various compounds found in cheese may adhere to tooth enamel and create a protective film around teeth.

This is not the first study to look at how cheese affects tooth decay, as some preliminary research has been conducted on rats.

WebMD reports findings consistent with the AGD study -- namely that the protein found in cheese, casein, helps with calcium re-mineralization in enamel. The medical website also says that the positive effects of cheese on teeth can be seen from eating as little as 5 grams.

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