Milk for a Healthy Mouth

By Dr. Peter Copp

A great deal of research of the benefits of milk consumption has gone ‘under the radar’. Milk and water have been displaced out of our diets, especially children’s, by juices, sodas and sports drinks. Vending machines full of juices, sodas and non-fluoridated water have replaced milk programs which is a shame. A 2006 review of the world-wide scientific literature published in the Canadian Dental Association Journal points to the wealth of studies which verify milk prevents tooth decay and can actually reverse early cavities!

 The calcium and phosphorous minerals in milk are necessary for growing strong teeth and bones but more than that other components of milk helps keep your teeth healthy after they are formed. Milk’s ability to reduce bacterial plaque on teeth, remineralize  (repair) early decay and inhibit biofilm formation on teeth are largely due to the numerous proteins found in it. Milk and other dairy products contain numerous bioactive compounds that prevent decay and are not simply a good source of calcium.

 Casein is a family of proteins that make up over 80% of milk protein. Casein actually recruit calcium phosphates (tooth mineral) to remineralized early decay areas and prevent the adhesion of decay causing bacteria to teeth.

 Besides casein milk also has whey proteins, lactoferrin, lysozyme and antibodies which improve oral health by their interactions with various bacteria that cause decay.

 When cow’s milk has been compared versus several infant formulas, cow’s milk clearly has the lowest decay potential.

 It should be noted, however, that lactose in cow’s milk or human mother’s milk is a carbohydrate that plaque bacteria use to case tooth decay. Frequent or continuous, prolonged bottle or breast feeding immediately before a child falls to sleep increases dramatically the risk for multiple, extensive decay.

 On the other hand, several recent studies done in North America and Europe have associate milk and dairy consumption with lower decay rates when combined with normal, routine brushing and cleaning regimens.

 Hard cheeses are also beneficial in similar ways but are not a complete substitute for drinking milk.

 With the current wide choice of beverages as well as the marketing to children, milk may be taken for granted. School milk programs should be part of healthy choices.