Lifestyle column: More cheese, Gromit

Can cheese prevent dental cavities?

Wednesday, 18th September 2013, 6:14 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 8:28 pm
Richard Guyver

A study published in a recent issue of the clinical journal General Dentistry has indicated that eating cheese may reduce the chance of developing dental decay.

Dental decay occurs when bacteria in the mouth feed on sugars from food and drink. They produce acid as a result of this and this acid eats away at the tooth surface. If this is allowed to continue then cavities develop in the tooth. This process increases the acid levels in the mouth and thus produces a low pH level. It has been shown that a pH level lower than 5.5 puts a person at risk of decay.

The way the body counteracts this is by producing saliva. Saliva helps to reduce the acidity (ie increase the pH) thereby reversing this attack.

In the recent study a group of 12 to 15-year-olds were given either cheese, milk, yoghurt or a control substance (paraffin wax) for 3 min. Their pH levels were checked at 10, 20 and 30 min. It was found that the pH levels in the plaque of those had cheese were significantly higher (ie better) than the other groups.

The theory is that the chewing action from eating cheese may produce more saliva than the chewing action of having the control in this study. Alternatively compounds in the cheese may adhere to the tooth enamel and protect from acid attack.

Cheese may not be so good for your waistline, however a small piece after a meal should give some protection against decay. Obviously it’s wise to keep the frequency of intake of any food or drink containing sugar to a minimum, and maintaining a good daily oral hygiene regime are obviously important practices to follow.

Richard Guyver is principal dentist at envisage-Emsworth dental practice and is author of the book Live Another 4006 Days And Improve Your Health With Dental Medicine.

Visit his website to find out more.