Woman holding bottles with milk and milk alternative.

On the list of foods that are good for teeth, dairy makes up several items. Milk, cheese & yogurt contain many vitamins & minerals that support dental health, but that’s not the only thing they contribute. Let’s take a closer look at the real strengths of dairy in regard to your oral health.

For patients who avoid dairy, whether or not they are lactose intolerant, we’ll also go into other options for achieving similar benefits.

Teeth-Strengthening Calcium

All dairy products contain calcium, which is known for making bones dense & strong. The outer layer of teeth, which is the first defense against decay, as well as the jaw bone, which holds teeth in place, both get strength from calcium.

Most often found in milk, yogurt & cheese, calcium is also in fish, seeds, beans, beets & almonds. Plus, some cereals & drinks like orange juice are fortified with calcium. Make sure to pair these foods with vitamin D, which your body needs to absorb calcium. Look for milks—including dairy-free milk alternatives like soy, almond & oat milk—& cereals that have been fortified with vitamin D.

Mouth-Cleansing Saliva

Dairy, especially cheese, is proficient at increasing saliva production, which has two major impacts on oral health. First, saliva is essential for sweeping bacteria-causing debris out of the mouth, minimizing the time that debris has to feed the bacteria that cause cavities. Second, cheese increases the pH level of the saliva, which counters & neutralizes the low pH of acids that fuel tooth decay. Studies have shown that the pH increase lasts for 30 minutes, making cheese an excellent snack alongside anything sugary.

A substitute for cheese when it comes to saliva production is chewing gum. However, most gums contain sugar that fuels bacteria, so it’s best to find sugarless gum. We recommend going one step further & getting a gum with xylitol, which is a sugar substitute that also helps prevent tooth decay by eliminating cavity-causing bacteria in your mouth.

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