How dairy vs plant-based foods affect influence your tooth health

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You diligently brush your teeth, floss, and even use mouthwash, but have you ever considered how your diet affects your dental health?

Research suggests that dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt can be beneficial for your teeth. But what about plant-based alternatives? Are they just as good? Let’s dive into the science.

The Benefits of Dairy

Dairy products are packed with nutrients such as protein and calcium that are essential for bone and dental health.

A study conducted by researchers Shkembi and Huppertz has reaffirmed the dental benefits of dairy products, citing their natural mineral content and proteins like caseins that help protect the teeth.

The Role of Sugar

Milk contains a type of sugar known as lactose, which is less harmful to teeth compared to other sugars like sucrose, glucose, and maltose.

This natural sugar doesn’t contribute significantly to tooth decay, making dairy an excellent choice for maintaining dental health.

The Plant-Based Challenge

With the surge in plant-based diets, people are increasingly opting for non-dairy alternatives such as almond milk, oat milk, and soy milk.

However, the same study reveals that these alternatives might not be as beneficial for dental health as their dairy counterparts.

Added Sugars and Minerals

While plant-based alternatives often contain the same levels of calcium and phosphate, these are usually added during the manufacturing process.

Moreover, the amount can vary between brands, leading to inconsistencies in nutrient content. Most concerning is the presence of added sugars like sucrose, which are detrimental to dental health.

Protein Differences

Dairy products contain specific proteins such as caseins, lactoferrin, and lysozyme, which offer protective effects against cavities.

Plant-based alternatives generally lack these proteins, making them less effective in combating tooth decay.

Tips for Dental Health

  1. Hydrate: Water remains the best beverage for overall health, including that of your teeth. After water, milk is the next best option.
  2. Limit Sugar: Excessive consumption of sugary foods and beverages can lead to tooth decay. Be mindful of not just candies but also sugary beverages like fruit juices.
  3. Follow a Balanced Diet: Adhering to dietary guidelines, such as the Aussie food guide, can help maintain dental health. The guide recommends specific servings of dairy or alternatives to maintain good dental hygiene.

The Takeaway

While plant-based milk alternatives offer a lactose-free option and align with certain ethical considerations, they may not provide the same dental benefits as dairy products.

Therefore, if dental health is a priority, consider incorporating dairy into your diet or seek plant-based alternatives that are fortified and free from added sugars.

For more information on maintaining optimal dental health, check out recent studies on the links between gum disease and diabetes, as well as dietary recommendations for treating gum disease.

The study was published in the journal Nutrients. So keep that smile bright and make informed choices for your teeth!

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