By now, it’s no secret that sugar, both directly and indirectly, contributes to cavities. But a recent study from the University of Illinois’ Chicago College of Dentistry may point to a bigger culprit: the oh-so-satisfying combination of refined sugar and starch topped with a douse of cow juice. This dynamic duo, introduced into many ready-to-eat dry cereals, can form dental plaque, which then converts into acids that eat tooth enamel. The study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association reveals that high carbohydrate consumption, over 60 grams a day or the equivalent of eating carbs four or more times a day, increases our risk of cavities. But when subjects of the study drank milk after eating a sugary cereal, and not with the actual cereal itself, the effects of the sugar plus starch were significantly diminished.
This unusual study had 20 participants eating a total of 20 grams of carbohydrates and then drinking beverages like whole milk, 100% apple juice or tap water. To make it even more interesting, plaque pH or acidity was measured with a touch microelectrode before eating, and again after drinking a beverage. The plaque pH dropped rapidly for subjects who consumed cereal alone. The pH remained at 5.83 when checked at 30 minutes. Remember that the ideal pH level for your mouth is 7. Anything below a 7 is acidic, for instance water has a pH level of 7.
Those subjects who drank milk after consuming dry, sugary cereal reported the highest pH rise from 5.75 to 6.48 in 30 minutes. Those who drank apple juice remained at a 5.84 pH level even after 30 minutes. Of course, drinking fruit juice may be healthy but the added sugar can be detrimental to enamel. Participants who drank water reached a pH level of 6.02.
Of the three liquids, whole milk, 100% apple juice or water, only milk was able to reduce acidity levels of dental plaque. Milk has a pH range of 6.4 to 6.7 and inherently promotes tooth remineralization and prevents plaque from forming.
Drinking that lone glass of milk may reduce your risk of tooth decay
With every study there’s something always unexpected. In this case, many consumers feel that having milk with cereal, even sugary cereal, helps with the remineralization process. However, what happens when you actually combine cereal with milk is that you get, well, milky sugar syrup. Unpublished studies revealed that the combination of cereal with milk lowered pH levels to the equivalent of rinsing with a 10-percent sugar solution. Then imagine eating cereal with milk, than drinking a glass of acidic orange juice. Bingo! You now have created the perfect environment for cavity-causing bacteria to thrive.
These results are yet another case of our oral health being heavily influenced by our diet. Interestingly, a recent study indicated the benefits of consuming cheese after a carb-loaded meal as a way to neutralize the pH levels in our mouths and avert acid production. That study suggests that the last food item eaten exerts the greatest influence on plaque pH levels. There is also a lot to be said about the possibilities of future studies on this very subject. There’s no doubt that further research into the consumption of foods in different combinations and the order in which they’re eaten will reveal multiple methods to help fight cavities.
And the hope here is that these preliminary findings regarding the order and/or the combination of different foods will, in turn, initiate further research on food sequencing. Unexpectedly, food sequencing may end up being the newest public health tool for preventive and educational purposes. Time will tell but this is a wholly unanticipated realm for future study.
In the meantime, we’re here to help you make the right decisions when it comes to your oral health. We offer many dental services and options that are not only pain-free and esthetic, but will have you on the road to good oral and general health. Come experience dental care in a relaxing, professional environment with us at Dr. Mark Langberg, DDS, MAGD, because it’s never too late to correct your course on the journey to better dental health. Don’t settle for less!
Until Next Time,
Mark W Langberg, DDS, MAGD
Your Southfield Family Dentist
Tel: (248) 356-8790