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Prevent Cavities With a Glass of Milk

Update Date: Aug 01, 2013 12:42 PM EDT

One of the most common health issues children suffer from is a cavity. Cavities, which are little holes formed in teeth that can be painful when left untreated, are caused by the buildup of plaque, germs and acids. Certain foods that children eat, such as sweets, can lead to an increased amount of plaque. One food in particular, arguably a child's favorite, cereal, contributes greatly to the development of cavities. Since parents like the simplicity of serving cereal and children love the taste, keeping cereal in one's diet can be important. In a new study, researchers report that drinking a glass of milk after eating dry cereal can counteract the effects of the cereal on tooth decay.

Cereal, particularly the ones with a lot of added sugars, triggers the bacteria in dental plaque that exists on the surfaces of teeth to make acids according to a professor of pediatric dentistry and lead researcher of this study, Christine Wu. Wu explained that the process of producing acid is caused by the fact that cereal contains refined sugars and starch. Previous studies have found that people who consumed carbohydrates around four times a day were at a greater risk of developing cavities. Based from these studies, the research team decided to find ways of preventing cavities while keeping cereal a part of a daily diet.

The researchers recruited 20 adults that ate 20 grams of the dry cereal, Froot Loops. After eating the cereal, the adults drank whole milk, tap water, or 100 percent apple juice. In order to find any effects of these beverages on plaque buildup, the researchers recorded plaque pH, or acidity level at two and five minutes post consumption. The researchers also measured plaque pH after two to 30 minutes of drinking the beverage after eating the cereal.

The researchers found that eating cereal lead to a pH level of 5.83, which is considered to be acidic. After half an hour, the pH level remained acidic. The researchers then looked at the acidity levels after the participants drank the three different beverages. For the adults who drank milk, the researchers found that the pH levels rose from 5.75 to 6.48 after 30 minutes. This indicated that milk helped raise the pH level closer to normal. Apple juice and water also helped increase the pH level but not nearly as much as milk. After adults drank apple juice, their pH level rose from 5.75 to 5.84 and for water, the pH level increased from 5.75 to 6.02.

"Our study results show that only milk was able to reduce acidity of dental plaque resulting from consuming sugary Froot Loops," graduate student and researcher, Shilpa Naval said. "We believe that milk helped mitigate the damaging effect of fermentable carbohydrate and overcome the previously lowered plaque pH."

Despite this discovery, the researchers noted that eating Froot Loops with milk led to a syrupy meal that lowered pH levels. Therefore, drinking milk after eating dry cereal might be key in staving off cavities. The study was published in the Journal of the American Dental Association.

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