When it comes to promoting the development of strong teeth and bones, few beverages offer the kind of healthy overall benefits as milk. As anyone who has ever seen a Got Milk? commercial knows, the frothy beverage is a great source of calcium, which not only helps to promote bone growth, it also helps promote the process of remineralization for tooth enamel. Remineralization helps to repair the damage done to tooth enamel by harmful oral bacteria, which slowly breaks down enamel over time.
However, a new study suggests that not all types of milk are created equal when it comes to protecting the health of your teeth. According to researchers at the University of Melbourne Dental School, drinking soy milk may actually increase an individual’s risk of tooth decay.
The results of the study have found that oral bacteria responsible for the development of tooth decay and gum disease produces five to six times more acid when feeding on soy milk when compared to cow’s milk, reports researchers.
The results of the study were published online in the Journal of Dentistry.
Oral Bacteria and Decay
The mouth contains millions, occasionally billions of bacteria, most of which represent no threat to an individual’s oral health. However, certain types of bacteria feed off the sugars we consume to produce acids that slowly erode away at tooth enamel, the hard outer surface of a tooth that protects the delicate roots and pulp at the center.
Oral bacteria contribute to the development of plaque, which sticks to the surface of an individual’s teeth. As sugars are consumed, plaque holds harmful bacteria to the surface of an individual’s teeth where the acids they produce can directly impact the strength of the surrounding enamel.
Based on the early findings of this study, researchers suggest that soy beverages have a higher potential to cause cavities when compared to beverages made with cow’s milk due to the acids bacteria produce when feeding off the sugars in soy milk being up to six times greater. The more acid bacteria produces, the more damage that occurs to the enamel.
A Sour Discovery
As part of their study, researchers at Melbourne Dental School compared four brands of Australian made soy beverages with two brands of cow’s milk. Each type of milk was mixed with the bacteria Streptococcus mutans, a strain that’s commonly found in the human mouth and routinely associated with the development of cavities.
Researchers discovered that the beverages made with soy were more acidic within 10 minutes after the bacterium was added. In comparison, the acidity of the cow’s milk remained unchanged after the addition of the bacteria strain. This indicated to researchers that once consumed, soy based beverages would produce significantly more acidity from oral bacteria when compared to cow’s milk.
Researchers were quick to point out that more study is needed before declaring that soy based beverages are potentially harmful to the health of an individual’s teeth.
While drinking soy occasionally is unlikely to impact the health of an individual’s teeth, the real concern in relation to higher acid output occurs when babies are allowed to sip from bottles containing soy milk throughout the day.
Beverages consumed from a bottle tend to pool around a child’s front teeth where they feed acid producing bacteria. When this type of behavior occurs repeatedly, a child’s risk of tooth decay increases, and he or she could suffer serious long-term oral health problems if left untreated. Because of the increased risk of decay, parents are often advised never to lay their baby down to sleep with a bottle that contains anything other than plain water. Parents are also advised to thoroughly clean their child’s teeth and gums following each feeding to help lower the risk of decay.