Did your mom ever tell you to drink a glass of milk each day? She was right. Research conducted at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry found that drinking milk after sugary meals, like cereal, can reduce dental plaque buildup and prevent the erosion of tooth enamel. And no, we don’t mean the sugary milk that’s left at the bottom of the bowl.
The research, published in the July issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association, was conducted on 20 adults who ate 20 grams of dry Froot Loops cereal. After consuming the product, each individual was asked to drink a different beverage: whole milk, 100 percent apple juice or tap water. Those who drank the apple juice didn’t notice a change in their pH levels, while the individuals who drank water saw their pH levels rise from 5.75 to 6.02 in 30 minutes. Those who drink milk had their pH level rise from 5.75 to 6.48 in the same time period.
“Our study results show that only milk was able to reduce acidity of dental plaque resulting from consuming sugary Froot Loops,” Shilpa Naval, a fellow at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said. “We believe that milk helped mitigate the damaging effect of fermentable carbohydrate and overcome the previously lowered plaque pH.”
Milk isn’t the only item that can help balance out sugar and acid in foods. In fact, previous studies have noted cheese as a great source for tooth erosion and bad breath. Consider ending each meal with a high pH level – anything higher than seven is basic. Water has a level around seven. Dentists believe if people change their dietary habits, they will be able to prevent tooth erosion and other outcomes from eating too much sugar and acidic food.
Unfortunately, milk can cause bad breath because of the amount of lactose in the beverage. So what do you do? After drinking a glass, make sure to follow it with some water, and use mouth rinse on a regular basis. Alcohol-free mouthwash will kill bad breath-causing bacteria and keep the mouth in peak condition. When possible, try to avoid foods with high levels of sugar and acid, in addition to beverages like fruit juices and soda.