In the fitness community, cheese often gets a bad reputation. As cheese is a high-fat food, many health gurus encourage those looking to lose weight to limit their cheese intake. Even if you were to choose a lower-fat option, cheese still packs a hefty number of calories, so you may have a difficult time staying within your caloric budget for the day.
In the dental community, however, cheese has excited researchers in multiple ways. In one study, individuals who consumed cheese showed a
decrease in dental plaque, and experts concluded that cheese may be a healthy way to reduce the likelihood of cavities.
But just how does cheese benefit your teeth?
1. Cheese Contains Plenty of Calcium
You probably already know that calcium plays a role in building strong bones. Consuming plenty of calcium not only reduces the likelihood of osteoporosis later in life, but it also strengthens the supporting bones in your jaw, which hold your teeth in place. Those who supplement their diet with calcium have greater tooth retention than those who do not.
A standard serving (120 g) of ricotta cheese offers 257 mg calcium, about 25% of the daily recommended intake. A 120 g serving of brie cheese contains 221 mg calcium, while the same amount of gouda offers a whopping 840 mg.
Additionally, cheese features plenty of vitamin D, a nutrient that enables you to properly absorb the calcium in each serving you eat. Better still, the vitamin D from cheese also helps you maintain proper phosphate concentrations so your bones can mineralise and grow properly.
2. Cheese Stimulates Saliva Production
Your mouth behaves much like a miniature ecosystem. Billions of oral bacteria live on your tongue, your teeth and the soft tissues of your mouth. Your oral hygiene, lifestyle and diet affect whether those bacteria thrive or die.
On average, your mouth maintains a neutral pH balance of about 6.75-7.25. This pH balance allows good bacteria and bad bacteria to remain in check. But when you eat acidic foods, your pH values shift toward the acidic, allowing bad bacteria to run rampant while good bacteria die under the prolonged exposure. If your mouth's pH levels drop below 5.5, your teeth start to demineralise, leaving your enamel vulnerable to decay.
Fortunately, cheese can come to your rescue when you eat it during and at the end of your meals. As a sialagogue, cheese stimulates saliva production. Saliva, in turn, neutralises the acids in your mouth and restores your natural pH balance.
But cheese does more than restore neutral pH levels; this tooth-friendly snack shifts your pH toward alkaline. Researchers found that cheese elevates pH levels for 30 minutes after you eat it, giving your teeth a fighting chance against bacteria and dental caries.
3. Cheese Shields Teeth From Acid
The bacteria in your mouth love sugary foods. As they eat the lingering sugars in your mouth, the bacteria secrete acids that wear away your teeth's enamel. The longer those acids sit on your teeth, the more damage they cause. Over time, the acid will eat through your enamel, enter the tiny crevices and pockets of your teeth and cause infection in the soft pulp.
But the acids can't do much harm if they can't stick to your teeth in the first place.
Cheese provides whey and casein proteins which stick to your teeth. They act as a shield against bacteria and acid. Furthermore, the proteins concentrate the calcium and phosphate from the cheese onto your teeth, remineralising your enamel and offering further protection from damage.
Feel Free to Order Extra Cheese With Your Meals
Cheese offers multiple benefits to your dental health as well as your overall health. If you consume cheese in moderation, you can significantly reduce your likelihood of suffering from cavities and tooth decay.
However, you shouldn't swap your toothbrush for a slice of Swiss, nor should you skip your regular dentist appointment. To keep your teeth healthy, combine your cheese consumption with a solid oral hygiene routine, and ask your dentist for frequent cleanings.