Drinking a glass of milk or eating cheese after eating sugary breakfast cereals may reduce cavities.

New research at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry shows that drinking sugary cereals with after eating reduces the plaque acid levels and may prevent damage to tooth enamel that leads to .  The same applies to eating cheese after a sugary meal.


The risk of is increased by eating carbohydrates four times daily, or in quantities greater than 60 grams per person per day.  Dry ready-to-eat, sugar-added cereals combine refined sugar and starch. When those carbohydrates are consumed, bacteria in the dental plaque on tooth surfaces produce acids, says Christine Wu, professor of pediatric dentistry and director of cariology, who served as principal investigator of the study.

The new study, performed by Wu’s former graduate student Shilpa Naval, involved 20 adults eating 20 grams of dry Froot Loops , then drinking different beverages — whole , 100 percent apple juice, or tap water.

Plaque pH, or acidity, was measured with a touch microelectrode between the premolar teeth before eating; at two and five minutes after eating; and then two to 30 minutes after drinking a liquid.

The pH in plaque dropped rapidly after alone, and remained acidic at pH 5.83 at 30 minutes. A pH below 7 is acidic; a pH greater than 7 is basic. Pure water has a pH close to 7.

Participants who drank after eating showed the highest pH rise, from 5.75 to 6.48 at 30 minutes. Those who drank apple juice remained at pH 5.84 at 30 minutes, while water raised the pH to 6.02.

Fruit juices are considered , but the added sugar can be a risk to dental health, Wu said.

“Our study results show that only was able to reduce acidity of dental plaque resulting from sugary Froot Loops,” said Naval, who is currently a fellow at the in Atlanta. “We believe that helped mitigate the damaging effect of fermentable carbohydrate and overcome the previously lowered plaque pH.”

, with a pH ranging from 6.4 to 6.7, is considered to be a functional food that fights because it promotes tooth remineralization and inhibits the growth of plaque, Wu said.

Wu says most consumers think that since is considered to be cavity-fighting, acid production by plaque bacteria can be minimized by mixing it with . However, in an unpublished study in her lab, it was discovered that the combination of Froot Loops and became syrupy. Eating combined with lowered plaque pH to levels similar to that obtained after rinsing with a 10 percent sugar solution.

Eating sugar-added with , followed by drinking is thus a highly cavity-causing combination, Wu said.

“Results from a previous study suggested that the last food item consumed exerts the greatest influence on subsequent plaque pH,” she said. For example, eating cheese after a sugary meal reduces acid production, and consumers can modify their diet in such a way as to prevent the cavity-causing effects of sugary foods.”

“If understood and implemented properly, food sequencing can be used as a public health educational tool to maintain and preserve good oral health,” said Naval.


University of Illinois at Chicago (July 2013). A glass of after eating sugary may prevent .


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