When you think of strong teeth and bones, you probably think of cow’s milk. But is milk good for your teeth, or are there ways it can harm your teeth?
With more and more people choosing a vegan diet, there is a need for vegan alternatives to cow’s milk (which has a similar nutritional composition). but the vegan diet It’s more accessible than ever, and many plant-based foods, like tempeh, are rich in calcium, which means you don’t need to rely on cow’s milk to get your daily dose.
We’ve talked to the experts about how milk affects dental health and collected the best oral care tips for a healthy, happy mouth. If you’re looking to upgrade your oral hygiene routine, our guide to Best electric toothbrushes It has a variety of options to suit a range of consumers as well.
How does milk affect dental health?
Milk is an excellent source of calcium and phosphorous, two minerals that the body uses to maintain bones and teeth. It is also used for muscle contractions (including the heartbeat) and for normal blood clotting. Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body, and 98% of it is stored in our skeleton, which our body uses as a storehouse to continuously remodel our bones throughout our lives. To have good dental health, you need to make sure that you are consuming enough calcium each day to replenish this reservoir, as this is what your body uses to make enamel and dentin.
Dentist Dr. Sunita de Zoisa explains that milk is rich in a variety of minerals that help contribute to dental health. “Milk contains many beneficial minerals, vitamins and proteins, which makes it a great drink for your health and your teeth,” she says. Milk also contains casein proteins that form a protective layer on the surface of your teeth, protecting against cavities. It also contains vitamin D which helps absorb calcium and phosphorous from your diet, as well as helping to repair damaged dentin and fight gum disease by aiding the immune system and reducing gingivitis.
In addition to being rich in calcium, milk is high in a sugar called lactose (which some people can’t digest). If eaten too close to bedtime and without brushing your teeth, these sugars will act like any other sugar and contribute to the development of tooth decay. The bacteria in our mouths love sugar, and produce acids that dissolve the enamel layer over time, which is why it is recommended to brush your teeth right before bed.
Dr. Tarun Nagpal A I do (Opens in a new tab)Revised dentist, explains that calcium is important for children’s development. “Cow’s milk is a great source of calcium, which is necessary during childhood for the growth and development of your teeth and bones,” he says. “When we are adults and our teeth are fully formed, milk becomes more superficial, not a necessity.”
De Zoysa also says that milk is useful as a drink that protects enamel if taken after a meal. “One of the most important things about milk is that it helps neutralize acid or sugar attacks, so it’s a good idea to take it after a meal or snack,” she says. “As a dairy product, it also stimulates saliva production, which, due to its composition, has antimicrobial properties and neutralizing ability, and is useful in preventing tooth decay and gum disease.”
Do you need to drink milk to get calcium?
While milk is the most well-known source of calcium, many foods contain the mineral in abundance. Some, such as meat substitutes and dairy-free milk, are fortified with calcium; oat milk And the coconut milk Good vegetarian alternatives to cow’s milk.
Some dairy-free calcium sources include:
- Fish – Oily fish, especially where you also eat the bones, is a good source of calcium. Sardines (with bones) contain 382 mg per 100 grams, salmon 26 mg per 100 grams and mackerel 12 mg per 100 grams.
- Plant-based milk – This is often fortified with calcium as it is used as a milk substitute. Unsweetened almond milk contains 120 mg of calcium per 100 ml, oat milk contains 130 mg per 100 g, and Soy milk 101 mg per 100 grams.
- Vegetables – Green leafy vegetables are rich in calcium. 100g of cabbage contains 254mg, beet leaves come in at 117mg per 100g and broccoli has 46mg per 100g.
- Meat substitutes – tempeh contains 111 mg per 100 grams, and firm tofu has 36 mg per 100 grams.
De Zoysa says that milk is a good drink for your teeth due to the bioavailability of the calcium it contains. “Milk, like other dairy products, is an easy source of calcium and the kind found in milk is easily absorbed by the body,” she says. Other dairy products, such as milk and cheese, also contain easily absorbed calcium. Low-fat dairy products often contain a similar level of calcium.”
She adds, “If you are allergic to cow’s milk or have lactose intolerance, there are alternative sources of calcium, including calcium-fortified drinks and foods (such as soy milk, almond milk, and cereal) and dark green leafy vegetables (such as kale, spinach). and soybeans.”
Oral care tips
Dr. de Zoysa gave LiveScience her top tips for good oral hygiene:
- Limit your consumption of sugary and acidic foods and drinks to no more than four times a day and limit them to meals.
- Do not brush your teeth immediately after eating, because your teeth will be softer than the acid and sugar. Use sugar-free gum and drink water and milk instead of soft drinks. Remember that “sugar-free” drinks still contain natural sugars and are still a form of acid or sugar attack.
- Brush your teeth twice daily with fluoride toothpaste, and last thing at night and on another occasion. Spit out after brushing your teeth and don’t rinse with water, as this keeps a reservoir of fluoride on your teeth.
- Clean between your teeth with an interdental aid such as flossing and an interdental brush daily.
- A fluoride mouthwash can be helpful to use at different times of the day than brushing your teeth, as your toothpaste will have a higher fluoride content than a mouthwash.