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Lucy Stock is a columnist for the Irish News

Can Milk Be Bad For Your Teeth?

by Lucy Stock BDS DipImpDent RCS (Eng)

Published in the Irish News . 06.11.2013

Almost one in three young adults suffers from tooth wear and hypersensitivity according to a study by Escarcel supported by GlaxoSmithKline. The research confirms that erosive tooth wear is even found in adults as young as 18 years old. This type of erosive wear leaves the teeth looking see through, pitted and feeling thin and sensitive. The study found that teeth that were most at risk from erosion damage where in people who took acidic foods (such as fizzy drinks, pure juices, alcohol and fruits) frequently. The modern diet is a minefield of acidic foods and drinks that will cause the teeth to simply dissolve away. 

One drink that is not on the public’s radar as being damaging to teeth is milk. It’s easy to get confused about whether milk is an acid or a base, especially when you consider that some people drink milk or take calcium to treat an acidic stomach. Actually, milk has a pH of around 6.5 to 6.7, which makes it slightly acidic. Some sources cite milk as being neutral since it is so close to the neutral pH of 7.0. Milk contains lactic acid which makes it slightly acidic. What this means every day is that drinking a glass of milk a day or on putting it on your cereal is no problem but drinking pints of milk a day will dissolve your teeth.

Surprisingly pure orange juice has the same acidity as coke so it will do as much damage even though people tend to think of pure juices as healthy. Other drinks which are marketed as healthy, natural pick-you-ups are herbal teas. Most are fine such as chamomile or peppermint, but the ones that will thin the teeth are the brands containing fruits such as lemon, raspberry and blackcurrant. 

Brushing your teeth immediately after taking acidy foods does more harm than good because enamel softened by the acid attack is scrubbed away by the toothbrush. The key to keeping your teeth healthy is to reduce how often you eat or drink acidic foods. You can try rinsing your mouth out with water after acidy foods or eating a piece of cheese that will neutralize your mouth. Drinking through a straw is also beneficial. The boring truth is that teeth are designed for us to drink water!