Milk is good for healthy teeth and bones and one of the easiest ways to get about a third of your recommended daily dose of calcium.
What are the benefits of milk for teeth? There are quite a few benefits of milk for teeth. Milk is a good source of essential vitamins and minerals like calcium that support oral health. For children, in particular, milk supports the growth and development of healthy teeth and bones.
Let’s take a closer look at why cow’s milk does actually do a body (and mouth) good and where to look if you need milk alternatives.
Milk Is an Excellent Source Of Nutrients For Dental Health
Milk supports a healthy body and oral health, especially in young children, in a variety of ways.
- It is the most widely available form of calcium. Extra calcium is most vital in early development as teeth are just forming and in older adults prone to bone density loss.
- Milk is also a great source of phosphorus. Calcium needs phosphorus to help you grow and maintain healthy teeth and bones.
- Milk contains casein proteins. These proteins provide your teeth with a protective film that can reduce tooth decay over time.
- Drinking milk can neutralize acids. Our diet can’t be perfect all the time. A glass of milk after acidic foods or drinks can protect against their effects on your enamel.
- Dairy products stimulate saliva production. Healthy levels of saliva prevent gum disease, tooth decay, and a variety of oral infections.
Can milk rebuild teeth? Milk can’t rebuild your teeth, but it can remineralize your teeth and repair damage. This is thanks to its combination of calcium and phosphorus.
Does milk clean your teeth? Milk doesn’t clean your teeth on its own, but the work it does to support saliva production helps manage bacteria in your mouth. Special proteins in milk also protect your tooth enamel from harmful acids and decay.
Some milks may be fortified with additional vitamins and minerals like vitamin D, another important component of bone health and a healthy immune system. Most retail milks in the United States come fortified with vitamin D.
Caution: Milk Also Contains Sugar
There are about 12 g of sugar in a cup of cow’s milk, whether you’re drinking whole or nonfat milk. For context, an apple has about 19 g of sugar.
Sugars in fruits and lactose are naturally-occurring, but that doesn’t mean you’ll keep the dentist away on a steady diet of just milk and apples.
Does milk cause cavities? Milk can cause cavities and tooth decay just like any other food and drink that includes natural or added sugars.
Brushing your teeth right before bed after you’re done eating and drinking for the day can help make sure those sugars don’t have a chance to sit on your tooth enamel for too long. Just don’t brush your teeth right after your meals.
Your teeth are at their most delicate at this time, and you want to avoid causing issues for your enamel. Wait about 30 minutes after meals, especially if you’ve eaten anything acidic, so that saliva can begin breaking down acids and sugars that may otherwise damage teeth.
Should you brush your teeth with milk? You should not brush your teeth with milk. It won’t whiten your teeth, and it won’t do anything for strong teeth.
Any benefits of milk come from actually consuming it, and milk consumption is especially beneficial in young children.
Milk Is Most Important For Children’s Teeth
Calcium is so important in young children. It supports good bone density, and that includes healthy teeth. The American Dental Association recommends 700 mg of calcium per day for children ages 1-3 and 1,000 mg for children ages 4-8.
That most often comes from milk, the most readily available source of calcium for young children.
It’s important to note here that common wisdom suggests children should not have cow’s milk until their first birthday. Talk to your doctor to see what fits your child’s needs best, as the data is limited on the benefits of milk before that time.
Calcium remains an important part of an adult diet. Some doctors recommend milk as a good source of calcium when bone density becomes an issue again in older adults. It’s easier to get a daily dose of the mineral in other ways if you think your diet is low in calcium.
Dairy-Free Calcium Sources
For those who can’t have cow’s milk due to lactose intolerance or other dietary concerns, some substitutes give you similar, if not the same, benefits as regular milk.
Many almond milk, soy milk, and oat milk brands popular with vegans, vegetarians, and adults watching their cholesterol are fortified with calcium. These milk substitutes are just as good at supporting oral care. Because some of them are lower in sugar, they might even be better!
Additional calcium-rich foods include:
- Fish, especially salmon and sardines
- Sesame and chia seeds
- Beans and lentils
- Nuts, especially almonds
- Leafy greens like spinach, broccoli, watercress, and collared greens
Other Foods & Drinks for Oral Health
Let’s set the milk aside for a moment. There are definitely foods and drinks out there proven to support your oral health, like plain water and high-fiber fruits and vegetables. A few more foods and drinks that are good for your mouth include:
- Whole grains
- Leafy greens, like spinach and kale
- Legumes like beans, peas, and lentils
- Nuts and seeds
- Plain yogurt and other dairy products (You can have ice cream in moderation!)
- Sugar-free chewing gum
Yes, chewing gum and a healthy mouth can coexist.
We recommend xylitol gum because it’s sugar-free but still tastes sweet. It can also improve saliva flow to combat dry mouth and bad breath. Just be wary of too much chewing. You can set yourself up for jaw pain, including TMJ disorders, down the road.
Don’t Neglect Dental Care
No matter what you’re doing to support your oral health on the nutrition side, it’s no replacement for solid dental care. Floss daily, brush with toothpaste at least twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush, and choose products that offer oral health benefits outside of cavity prevention, like healthy gums.
That may mean switching to natural products over fluoride or astringent mouthwashes. Try introducing oral probiotics into your routine to boost your oral microbiome and prevent gum disease.
Pro tip: We’re huge fans of Revitin toothpaste. It’s formulated for healthy gums!
Be sure to visit your dentist for regular checkups twice a year to support your dental health.
We’re Here to Help
If you’re in the market for a new dentist or a different kind of dental experience in and around New York City, our offices at Rejuvenation Dentistry support whole-body care. We offer new patients the chance to take a whole-body approach to their oral health.
It’s about prevention over reaction, and a collaboration for overall health.
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- Wosje, K.S. & Specker, B.L. (2000). Role of calcium in bone health during childhood. Nutrition Reviews, 58(9), 253-68. Abstract: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11060996/
- Ravishankar, T. L., Yadav, V., Tangade, P.S., Tirth, A, & Chaitra, T. R. (2012) Effect of consuming different dairy products on calcium, phosphorus and pH levels of human dental plaque: A comparative study. European Archives of Paediatric Dentistry, 13(3), 144-8. Abstract: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22652212/
- Yuan, M., Tan, M., Moore, D., Shen, S., Qiu, X., Thomas, G.N., & Cheng, K. (2020) Timing of cow’s milk or cow’s milk formula introduction to the infant diet and atopic risk in children: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Clinical Reviews in Allergy & Immunology, 59(1), 46-60. Abstract: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31768874/
- Cormick, G. & Belizán, J. M. (2019) Calcium intake and health. Nutrients, 11(7), 1606. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6683260/