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Mar 8

Milk Does a Cavity Good?

kid-milkYou’re probably thinking, isn’t it supposed to be, Milk Does a Body Good? Yes, that’s the familiar slogan. In fact, milk is great for the body, especially for growing kids because of the calcium, proteins, and natural vitamins that it packs in a single glass. Calcium for example, is a major player in the building of strong bones – something we have quite a lot of in our body, including in our mouth where teeth are embedded or rooted in. So it’s no secret that the stronger your bones, the healthier your teeth will be. We’re definitely not discrediting the benefits of milk by any means nor are we saying not to drink milk. What we’re saying is that milk can cause cavities and tooth decay, especially in toddlers and younger children.

Milk, unfortunately, also does a cavity good. Its more of a concern for toddlers and younger kids, especially ones that drink milk from the bottle or sippy cup. You may have heard of the condition, baby bottle tooth decay. This is when feeding milk from a bottle leads to tooth decay. We’ll explain how that happens later. But keep in mind that there are many factors that could also contribute to your child getting cavities, including oral hygiene, overall diet, and genetics.

How Milk Causes Cavities

The best way to explain how milk can cause cavities is by looking at it’s anatomy. In addition to all the healthy vitamins and proteins, milk also contains natural sugars called lactose. Sugar in any form is always a catalyst for cavities under the right environment. A glass of milk, typically 8 fluid ounces or about 140 grams, contains roughly 12 to 14 grams of sugar. To get a feel for how much sugar that is, we compare it to some familiar sugary drinks such as soda, gatorade, and orange juice. In the same volume size (about 8 ounces), soda ranges from 22 to 25 grams of sugar, gatorade has about 14 grams, and orange juice rounds out at 20 grams of sugar. Surprised? But milk doesn’t even tastes sweet, you might say to yourself. Because milk doesn’t have the typical sweet taste like the other drink products, the amount of natural sugar it has can be deceiving. And if your child receives multiple servings of milk a day, the risks go way up with developing cavities if proper oral hygiene isn’t practiced diligently.

Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Milk contains a decent amount of sugar and under the right environment, it will cause tooth decay. Using a bottle or sippy cup when consuming milk can provide that perfect environment for cavities to develop and thrive. Bottle feeding can be slow and sometimes take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. This results in longer periods of time for sugar to come into contact with teeth. To make matters worse, some kids tend to fall asleep with the bottle still in their mouth. This creates a standing pool of milk inside their mouth with extended exposure time for the sugars to break down and cause tooth decay.

Tips for Your Child to Avoid Tooth Decay

Getting the right amount of calcium, proteins, and other essential vitamins for your child is critical to their growth and development. Eating a well balanced diet low in sugars is an important part of keeping your oral health in tip top shape. Here are a few tips to consider to help your child reduce the risk of developing cavities and tooth decay.

➢ Do not allow your baby to fall asleep with the unfinished milk bottle in their mouth. Remove the bottle when that happens.

➢ Give your child a glass of milk instead of letting them feed from the bottle or sippy cup. Drinking the milk quickly will reduce the exposure time of the sugars on their teeth.

➢ Only fill bottles and sippy cups with water. Milk and other juices should be consumed in a glass.

➢ Reduce the amount of milk you give to your child. Supplement their calcium intake with other healthy foods like yogurt, cheese, and various greens. Other sources of proteins can be also supplemented with nuts, beans, and eggs. Nutrition is key in maintaining good oral health. Having a well balanced diet and eating healthy snacks will curve your child’s appetite and desire for sugary foods.

➢ Maintain good oral hygiene. Have them rinse their mouth after drinking milk or other juices. Get them in the habit of brushing and flossing daily. Help your child brush their teeth if they are still too young to do it effectively on their own. A good rule of thumb is to continue to help them brush until they are able to tie their own shoelaces. This will ensure their coordination is adequate to brush and floss properly.

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Written by Dr. Kim H. Nguyen
Dr. Kim Nguyen

Owner of Mint Dental OC and is a leading dentist in Southern California.

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