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Growing up, your mom probably told you to drink your milk since it will make your bones stronger. She might have told you it will make your teeth healthier as well.
In those “Got Milk?” advertisements, celebrities from Taylor Swift to Michael Jordan have endorsed the health benefits of milk.
Is drinking milk good for your teeth?
The answer is yes. While it’s not a magic bullet and won’t solve your problems overnight, drinking milk can help make your smile healthier. Before addressing this, however, it’s helpful to understand the basic structure of teeth in order to see how milk can be good for you.
The human tooth is comprised of two primary layers. The white part which is the one you can see and forms the characteristic shape of the tooth, is called the enamel.The enamel is made of minerals such as calcium, which milk is high in.
Hiding underneath the enamel is the dentin. This is made up of bone.
A natural layer of bacteria forms on the surface of the enamel. This is called plaque. Most of the time, plaque is not a problem. Sometimes, however, it can grow out of control and lead to a breakdown of enamel.
This is how a cavity is formed. The acid from the bacteria in the plaque eat away into the enamel until it reaches the dentin.
Now you have a simple idea of the science behind tooth decay. So, where does milk come into the picture?
How Milk Helps Your Teeth
The definitive answer is: yes, milk is good for your teeth. It can benefit your teeth in two primary ways.
The first is calcium. Tooth enamel is primarily made of calcium. Since milk is a food high in calcium, it can help strengthen tooth enamel. While only expecting mothers need to really worry about getting enough calcium, many children and adults still need to make sure to get enough in their diets.
The primary way milk helps your teeth is through a protein called casein. Think of these proteins as a booster for the calcium in the enamel. They aid the tooth in re mineralizing the enamel and building it back up.
The result is a stronger, healthier tooth that can better withstand the acidity of plaque. Also, milk can aid in the repair of teeth after it’s been damaged.
Drinking milk after eating acidic and sugary foods can help reduce the wear and tear on the enamel. It might be a good idea to have a glass of milk after a sugary meal.
A Few Words of Caution
It’s worth letting you know of a few caveats to the benefits of drinking milk for oral health.
First, milk does contain sugar, sometimes in a fairly high amount. Specifically, whole milk contains between 9-14 grams of sugar per standard serving. So, if you’re worried about the sugar content of milk, it would be a good idea to opt for skim or fat free.
Another caveat is that milk will not have a huge impact on your teeth. If you suffer from moderate to severe tooth decay, adding milk to your diet won’t reverse your situation. You probably have more severe dental health issues or bad habits that cancel out any possible benefit you would receive from drinking milk.
Still, adding milk to your diet won’t hurt and will make you healthier overall in the long run.
Your mom was right. Drinking milk will strengthen your bones and whiten your smile. In order to strengthen and preserve the enamel in your teeth, you need calcium. As you know, milk is rich in calcium.
Thus, milk will aid in the remineralization of your enamel, protecting the vulnerable dentin underneath. In addition, the casein protein assists in the remineralization efforts.
Again, it’s worth remembering a few key points. First, milk does contain sugar so be judicious. Second, milk is not a be-all-end-all fix for your dental health problems. Brushing and flossing are much more important.
So, go out and get some milk. You’ll have healthier teeth if you do.