cheese_mouthWhen it comes to your teeth, there may be something to having cheese for dessert – and not just because it’s non-sugary and calcium-rich. Recently, scientists found that it may actively lower your cavity risk.

For one, it makes conditions in your mouth less acidic. Where acidity can erode enamel, leaving teeth more vulnerable to decay, eating cheese was seen to raise oral pH. As for the why:

The study indicated that the rising pH levels from eating cheese may have occurred due to increased saliva production (the mouth’s natural way to maintain a baseline acidity level), which could be caused by the action of chewing.

Of course, if saliva were enough, you could chew sugary sweets, say, and lower oral pH. That, however, does not happen. So what is it about cheese itself?

Additionally, various compounds found in cheese may adhere to tooth enamel and help further protect teeth from acid.

One of those compounds may be pyrophosphate – a salt or ester that’s commonly found in toothpastes and other dental products, as it helps control tartar.

The study was published in General Dentistry.

But despite its explanation of the pop wisdom that a bit of cheese at the end of a meal can help you keep your teeth healthy, it’s no panacea. You still need to brush and floss and all that. (Yeah, we know: downer, right?)

More, as we’ve noted time and again, when it comes to the health of your teeth – like the health of your body – “superfoods” and other such edible “miracles” matter less than your overall diet and lifestyle. Let’s just put it this way: If you typically eat a lot of refined carbs and other hyper-processed foods; if you drink a lot of soft drinks, juice or other acidic beverages; if you brux, mouth-breathe or engage in other habits that can raise your risk of decay; if you endure chronically high stress; if your sleep is poor or irregular; if you use prescription drugs that give you dry mouth…

If you’ve got these kinds of things going on, a little bit of cheese won’t hurt. But it also isn’t apt to help much.

The big picture matters. A lot.

Image by Alan, via Flickr

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