There are plenty of foods you should avoid when it comes to your oral health, but is milk good for teeth?
Even though it contains lactose, which is a form of sugar, milk is really good for your pearly whites. The combination of calcium and vitamin D is great for making strong bones and teeth.
How Milk Helps Your Teeth
Did you know that more than 99% of your body’s calcium can be found in your teeth and bones? Contrary to popular belief, teeth are not bones, but both your teeth and your bones need calcium for strength. Since those two things are the hardest substances in your body, it’s important to make sure you’re getting enough calcium daily.
The need for calcium starts before you’re even born. Newborns need about 200 mg per day, and that amount goes up to around 1,000 mg per day as you get older, according to the National Institutes of Health.
When you meet your daily value of calcium, it will help strengthen the enamel on your teeth and promote a stronger jaw, too. Having a tough jawbone will help prevent tooth loss in the long run.
But the benefits don’t stop at having stronger teeth. Research shows that eating dairy products can help prevent tooth decay, too. Essentially, dairy products (especially cheese) increase the pH levels in your mouth, which helps to fight cavities. Those dairy products also contain caseins, which put a sort of protective film over your teeth’s enamel.
There is one exception to this rule. It’s a condition called baby bottle tooth decay. This happens when a baby’s teeth have prolonged exposure to sugars.
The most common cause of this is leaving a baby with a bottle overnight. The milk will remain on the teeth for the whole night. Since younger children’s teeth are still developing, they don’t have that fully-formed protective layer of enamel. The sugars found naturally in the milk will then cause decay.
The moral of the story here is to make sure your children aren’t going to bed with a bottle and brushing their teeth before they go to sleep for the night to wash away any of those sugars that might be hanging around.
Alternatives to Cow’s Milk
Drinking milk is one of the best and easiest ways to get your daily dose of calcium, but it’s not the only way. People who either don’t like milk or can’t drink it due to dietary restrictions have plenty of options.
If you’re in the crowd that just doesn’t like milk, go with yogurt and cheese. Yogurt actually has more calcium than milk in a single serving. Cheese helps make you salivate, which will help clean off your teeth and keep that pH level in the right zone.
Many people have moved to milk substitutes like almond milk or soymilk for various reasons. When it comes to soymilk, you’ll be getting a good dose of calcium, but it could also increase the acidity in your mouth. That is bad for your enamel, so make sure you’re brushing frequently.
Almond milk isn’t a good source of calcium on its own, so you won’t be able to count on it for getting your recommended daily dose.
Those of you who don’t eat dairy at all can try adding more fish to your diet. Types such as salmon and tuna are high in calcium and vitamin D.
Vegetarians and vegans can try eating more tofu, turnip greens, kale, and bok choi. Those foods contain less calcium and vitamin D than dairy products, so you’ll just have to eat more servings to get the same benefits.
If you’re not already doing it, add a nice cold glass of milk or some yogurt to your daily diet to make sure you’re making those pearly whites nice and strong. As always, keeping up with your daily brushing and flossing along with making regular appointments with your dentist will keep your smile nice and bright.