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Is Milk Bad For Your Teeth?

Updated: Nov 15, 2023

Do you remember all of those "got milk?" commercials? Surely, milk is good for your teeth or was it all a lie, fabricated by the dairy industry?

Got Milk?

Table of Contents:

Why is milk good for your teeth?

Milk is good for your teeth because it contains a lot of calcium, vitamin D, and casein. All three of these help your body build strong teeth and protect them from tooth decay.

  • Calcium. This is the building block for your teeth and your bones. In fact, they are mostly made out of it! In fact, for your teeth to remineralize and reverse cavities, calcium and phosphate are required. Without them, you cannot remineralize your enamel.

  • Vitamin D. Studies have shown that vitamin D deficiencies usually lead to lower bone densities as well as affecting teeth. What this vitamin does, is it allows the body to absorb calcium.

  • Casein. This is a common protein that is found in milk. Unbeknownst to most people, it has the ability to form a protective layer over the enamel and prevent enamel erosion. This means that casein has a protective effect against tooth decay.

All three of these components of milk are what makes it good for your teeth. They not only help you build healthy teeth but also strong bones in the process!

Why would milk be bad for your teeth?

Despite the positive benefits of drinking milk, it can rot your teeth if you consume it haphazardly such as drinking it right before bed. We've seen many instances of milk ruining infant's teeth when the mother leaves a bottle of milk in the baby's mouth as they fall asleep. The milk, which is full of sugar ends up causing tooth decay all over the baby's mouth and that condition is called baby bottle tooth decay.

The only reason that milk is bad for you is because of the sugar that is naturally in it. Tuscan whole milk has 12 grams of sugar per 8 oz of milk and that is not artificially added. That is a pretty hefty dose of sugar in that one cup!

Since the sugar in milk can cause cavities, don't even think about trying to use it as a home remedy to whiten your teeth. Some people are under the impression that milk has the ability to do so since it can build strong teeth. Even if it could, it is not worth the risk of rotting your teeth to do so. Rotten teeth are not white but brown, which is not what you want.

Should you brush your teeth after drinking milk?

Since we know that milk can cause tooth decay, it would be wise to brush afterwards but there is one caveat. Brushing your teeth right after drinking milk can be bad for your teeth because your mouth is in an acidic environment.

You want to wait about 30-60 minutes before brushing so that your mouth can be less acidic. If you brush your teeth in an acidic environment, you can cause enamel erosion.

The consequences of having eroded enamel is poor cosmetics and also tooth sensitivity.

  • Worsening cosmetics. The enamel layer is more white in color but the dentin layer underneath is more yellow. If the enamel layer wears away your tooth will start looking more yellow.

  • Sensitivity. The enamel layer is not alive and it does not contain much nerve endings at all. If you erode it away, it exposes the dentin layer which is full of nerve endings. That may be a source of sensitivity whenever you drink a cold beverage.

In case you didn't have the patience to wait about an hour before brushing your teeth. A simple solution would be to use a mouthwash and rinse for about 1 minute prior to brushing. That will certainly bring the pH level back up from an acidic environment to a more neutral one which will then permit you to brush without any enamel erosion.

Do dentist recommend milk?

Our long island city dentist do recommend drinking milk because it is a readily accessible source of calcium, vitamin D, and casein. You can easily find the product at any supermarket and deli near you. Despite the sugar, those three ingredients are needed to build strong teeth.

With that being said, milk is not necessary for teeth per say because there ARE alternatives to getting those three ingredients. A healthier alternative would be almond milk which has these benefits over milk.

  • Lower calories

  • No cholesterol

  • Very low fat

  • Higher amount of calcium.

  • LESS sugar than milk

The point that we would like to focus on is that your typical Silk Almond Milk has only 8 grams of sugar, which is 33% less sugar than milk. Having less sugar will decrease the chances of tooth decay but you still shouldn't swish the milk around your teeth because that isn't good for it.

Just drink it normally and don't forget to go in for your 6 month dental check ups.


David Chen 200 x 200.jpg

About the author: Dr David Chen, DDS

Hello, I'm Dr Chen and I'm an actively practicing dentist in Long Island City, NY. I graduated from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in 2016 but prior to going to dental school I was already working in the dental field. It's been more than a decade since I first got to know dentistry and let me tell you, time flies by quickly. Since then I've developed a fondness for writing, which is how this all got started!

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Medical Disclaimer:

This blog is purely meant for information purposes and should not be used as medical advice. Each situation in your mouth is unique and complex. It is not possible to give advice nor diagnose any oral conditions based on text nor virtual consultations. The best thing to do is to go in person to see your dentist for an examination and consultation so that you can receive the best care possible.

The purpose of all of this oral health information is to encourage you to see your dentist and to inform you of what you may expect during your visit. Due to the unfortunate nature of dentistry, there isn't really any true home remedies that will get rid of dental problems. Roughly 99.99% of them require in-person intervention by a healthcare professional.

Hint: That is the reason why you can't eliminate seeing dentists in your life!

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