Milk has long been thought to be important for strong teeth and bones, so much so that it was handed out to every school pupil in the UK until the 1970s! But is this an old wives’ tale, or a fact? Every few years we’re alternately told that milk is either really good or really not good for our teeth, so which is it? Read on to find out why milk could be good for your teeth…
Milk and dairy products are full of calcium, which is the main component of teeth and bones - so it makes sense that getting more calcium can help to build up their strength! It’s recommended to take in a minimum of 200 mg of calcium a day, and an average 250 ml glass of milk contains about 300 mg of calcium, so making this a regular part of your diet can help you to ensure consistent calcium intake. However, some people may suffer from lactose intolerance or have dairy free diets, in which case there are plenty of other sources for calcium! Vegan options include dark leafy greens (such as kale and broccoli), seeds and nuts (especially almonds!) and soybean products.
Found in all dairy products with a milk base, casein proteins help to create a film that sticks to the surface enamel on your teeth. This film protects the enamel from decay, which in turn also protects the more sensitive parts of your teeth below the enamel! As casein proteins are dairy-specific, this is a benefit which can be gotten from milk but not from dairy-free alternatives.
Milk and dairy products are pH neutral, which means that they can help to reduce acid in the mouth! Cheese and milk are often recommended to finish off a snacking session because they help to neutralise the bacteria-forming acids present in the mouth after eating sugary foods!
When ingested, milk also increases saliva production, which is great for your oral health! Saliva helps to wash out acid and bacteria present in the mouth, but also contains calcium and phosphates which are reabsorbed into your teeth and help to remineralise and strengthen them!
Although there are great benefits to ingesting more milk and dairy, some of these can be gotten from non-dairy products, too, which means you don’t have to drink milk in order to strengthen your dental hygiene! This doesn’t mean that milk is bad for your teeth, only that there are many different options available. Remember, diet is always an important part of oral (and overall) health, but of course a good diet alone is not enough. Whether you choose to drink milk as part of your diet or not, remember the golden rules of good oral health and hygiene:
- Brush your teeth twice a day with a good quality toothbrush.
- Visit your dentist twice a year.
As long as you maintain a good routine, your teeth will be happy and healthy!