This probably isn't going to come as shocking news, but here it is anyway: Sweet desserts will wreck your teeth. Besides adding triple digits to your daily calorie count, all those cakes, pies, brownies, cookies and hot fudge sundaes you've been enjoying after dinner have really been doing a number on your chompers.
Eating too much sugar is one of the fastest ways to ruin your teeth. There are hundreds of species of bacteria in your mouth, all of which thrive on sugar. When you chow down on something sweet, the bacteria cling to your teeth, creating plaque and converting dietary sugars into acid that eats away at your tooth enamel. If you don't clean off the plaque properly -- especially after eating that slice of apple pie a la mode after dinner -- the plaque will harden into tartar, greatly increasing your risk of tooth decay and dental disease.
Even if you're well aware of the dirty details of tooth decay, you might still be tempted to load up on post-meal sweets. What else are we supposed to eat for dessert, you might ask, but sugary treats? The answer may be surprising: cheese. It might not be the most exciting alternative to banana splits and chocolate chip cookies, but it actually cleans your teeth.
How, you say? Read on to find out.
How Cheese Neutralizes Acids in Your Mouth
Most of us know that eating vegetables is good for our teeth, and it's easy to understand why. Veggies are low in sugar, and the action of chewing the crispy and crunchy ones can physically scrub your teeth. But why is cheese so great at cleaning teeth? Here's a quick rundown (as you'll see, a little bit of cheese can really pack a punch):
- Eating cheese stimulates saliva production, which lowers the mouth's acidity levels, protects teeth from acid and helps clear food particles.
- Lactose, the sugar found in cow's milk, is the least likely type of sugar to cause cavities.
- The fat in cheese reduces the amount of harmful bacteria in the mouth.
- The phosphorus and calcium in cheese prevent the pH levels in the mouth from decreasing and actually work to remineralize tooth enamel.
Of course, cheese can help your teeth anytime you eat it, but research has shown that it's especially beneficial after a meal or a sugary drink. Munching on a few cubes or small slices of cheese might not satisfy your sweet tooth as well as a chunk of chocolate cake would, but think of it as a small sacrifice that, in the long run, might actually save that sweet tooth.
For more information about dental health, check out the links on the next page.
- American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. "Quick Tips for Busy Parents: Your Child and Cheese." (Sept. 7, 2011) http://www.aapd.org/hottopics/news.asp?NEWS_ID=499
- BBC. "Diet and Dental Health." April 2011. (Sept. 7, 2011) http://www.bbc.co.uk/health/treatments/healthy_living/nutrition/dietary_dental.shtml#milk_and_cheese_and_dental_health
- Kam, Katherine. "Preventing Tooth Enamel Erosion." WebMD. July 8, 2010. (Sept. 7, 2011) http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/healthy-teeth-10/tooth-enamel-protection
- Simply Teeth. "Diet and Tooth Decay." (Sept. 8, 2011) http://www.simplyteeth.com/category/sections/adult/caringteethgums/DietDecay.asp?category=adult§ion=4&page=5