Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Cheese Slows Tooth Decay

Photo from cwbuecheler's photostream

I found this lovely little nugget about slowing (and maybe eliminating?) tooth decay with cheese in a book I'm reading by Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. The book is NOT a recipe book, just factual knowledge about food.

The whole first chapter (60 pages) is all about milk, and milk products. The very last paragraph in that chapter is quoted here in its entirety:

Finally, it has been recognized for decades that eating cheese slows tooth decay, which is caused by acid secretions from relatives of a yogurt bacterium (especially Streptococcus mutans) that adhere to teeth. Just why is still not entirely clear, but it appears that eaten at the end of a meal, when streptococcal acid production is on the rise, calcium and phosphate from the cheese diffuse into the bacterial colonies and blunt the acid rise.

What that says to me is very clear: simply eating a bit of real cheese immediately at the end of the meal cuts down on tooth decay. Isn't that amazing? I've always wondered why, despite close attention to dental hygiene, I still developed tooth decay. A simple bit of food science could have saved me untold amounts of money and agony!


  1. And I like cheese a lot more than brushing my teeth! LOL

    Thanks so much for providing all this info... I'm gradually working my way through all your posts. Wonderful reading. =0)

  2. Isn't it nice to be able to justify more cheese? LOL.

    Kind words always appreciated, Thanks!

  3. Wow, decades? I never knew that! Sometimes we eat cheese just for the added taste, but this is a plus! I wonder if cheeses could eventually prevent tooth decay. I think that would be better :D Thank you for sharing!

  4. Emmy,

    Since I wrote the post above I have been learning to make cheese, and in the process... learning more about real cheese vs processed cheese.

    I've learned enough to doubt the dental effect is possible with the typical processed cheese available in the grocery stores vs the positive effect as real artisan, old-fashioned cheese.

    Pasteurizing milk kills the many beneficial enzymes naturally occurring in milk. In Real Cheese, especially those made from raw milk, the added bacterial cultures are allowed to grow slowly over months, producing the taste and aroma we love.

    Weston A. Price (DDS) found virtually no tooth decay in the remote peoples he studied. I'd bet the ranch they ate a lot of cheese from their own goats or cows!


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