Despite the lack of national media coverage, tooth decay has become a global epidemic. According to a World Health Organization study, between 60 to 90 percent of school-aged children suffer from tooth decay, while nearly 100 percent of all adults globally suffer from some form of decay. At Sonora Dentist, Sonora, CA dentist Dr. Paul Berger wants every patient to avoid the dangers present to their oral health as a result of tooth decay.
The onset of tooth decay marks the first step in the gradual decline of an individual’s oral health. Following the development of cavities, an early form of gum disease called gingivitis usually follows. When left untreated, gingivitis will progress into the more serious periodontitis, which ranks as the leading cause of tooth loss in adults.
Globally, between 15 and 20 percent of middle-aged adults suffer from severe periodontal disease, which primarily accounts for why 30 percent of all adults globally over the age of 65 have lost all of their permanent teeth.
While brushing and flossing, along with scheduling regular dental appointments, remain the best ways to prevent the onset of decay and the development of cavities, a recent study may have found a more delicious way of improving your oral health – eating cheese.
Researchers have recently published a study in the American Dental Association’s peer-reviewed journal, General Dentistry, that suggests consuming cheese and other dairy products may offer additional protection against decay and cavities. Could cheese really be the key to better oral health? Sonora, CA dentist Dr. Paul Berger presents the evidence.
The Dairy Defense
While researchers have known for awhile that diets high in dairy help promote good overall health, little research had been dedicated to ascertaining the effects of dairy products on oral health alone.
To determine what diets high in dairy might provide individual oral health, researchers tested 68 study participants between the ages of 12 and 15 to determine their dental plaque pH levels prior to consuming sugar-free yogurt, milk, or cheese. Individuals with a pH level of less than 5.5 have an increased risk of suffering from decay and tooth erosion, while those with pH levels above 5.5 have a significantly lower risk of suffering the effects of tooth decay.
After assigning the participants to random groups, researchers asked the first group to eat cheddar cheese, the second to drink a glass of milk, and the third to consume a cup of sugar-free yogurt. Each group was asked to take three minutes to consume their dairy serving, and then was required to rinse their mouths thoroughly with water. Researchers then retested the participants’ dental plaque levels at intervals of 10, 20, and 30 minutes.
Participants who consumed either sugar-free yogurt or milk showed no changes in their pH levels. However, participants who consumed cheese showed a dramatic increase in pH levels at each testing level, which suggests to researchers that cheese contains properties that help fight cavities.
Researchers speculate that the rise in pH levels may have been due to a combination of effects, including increased saliva production- which acts as the mouth’s nature defense against harmful bacteria- caused by eating the cheese and certain compounds found in cheese itself that help to repair tooth enamel and prevent decay.
Diet and Oral Health
While researchers quickly pointed out that cheese consumption shouldn’t be considered a viable alternative to practicing quality oral hygiene and making routine dental care visits, adding more servings of cheese to a diet can offer additional protection. Researchers also advised that in addition to consuming more cheese, reducing the amount of sugars and carbohydrates a person consumes daily can also help protect oral health.
Oral bacteria that causes tooth decay uses simple sugars and starches as a fuel source to produce substances that eat away at tooth enamel. The fewer items in a diet that contain these compounds, the less damage is done by bacteria to teeth. Reducing the amount of sugar and carbs from a diet would also help to offset the additional calories eating more cheese would contribute to a diet.
If you have any questions about the best ways of avoiding tooth decay, feel free to ask Sonora, CA dentist Dr. Paul Berger during your next appointment.