Preventing Tooth Decay

Cheese makes many people smile, and now scientists have learned that eating cheese can help protect your teeth. Casein, a chemical found in dairy, helps shield teeth from decay, and one component of casein is calcium, which helps strengthen and restore tooth enamel. In addition to these benefits of dairy, cheese in particular can change the chemistry of the mouth, making it less acidic. That means there’s less acid eating away at tooth enamel. In a study comparing the effects of various dairy products teenagers assigned to drink milk or eat yogurt showed no change in mouth acidity, whereas in teenagers who ate cheese, their mouths were less acidic. Cheese also has a particularly high concentration of casein.

Dental caries, or cavities, are caused by bacteria. The bacteria are drawn to accumulated food debris, particularly sugar, on the teeth, and form a film on the teeth called plaque. This plaque thrives in an acidic environment and is acidic itself. This acid eats away at the minerals in tooth enamel, weakening it and creating little pits in the surface. the bacteria and plaque get inside these pits, making them wider and deeper. The widened and deepened holes are cavities. Left to develop untreated, the plaque can get to the root of the tooth, where the nerves are, causing pain and abscess, and eventually tooth loss.

In addition to cheese, other foods can help prevent or slow tooth decay. Cocoa—without too much sugar—has polyphenols that reduce plaque coverage on teeth and fight the erosion of tooth enamel. Black tea has similar polyphenols, and it has fluoride, which is found in many toothpaste formulas and is known to be an important component of a healthy dental regimen. Tea also has flavanols such as epigallocatechin that reduce bacterial growth. Apples and cranberries have flavonoids, and the apple’s crunchy texture helps provide abrasive action to clean teeth.

Brushing your teeth also helps. Brush before bedtime and after eating sticky or sugary foods. Also floss, to avoid plaque buildup between your teeth. use antimicrobial mouthwash to help further clear out bacteria, and chew sugarless gum to help encourage saliva production, washing plaque away.

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