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December 2023
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Researcher Says This Smooth Treat Can Improve Oral Health

Yogurt and Blueberries Smile – It’s Yogurt!

When it comes to nutrition, you probably don’t think of how eating better will brighten your smile. But as you might imagine, what we eat plays a significant role in whether or not we’ll be making a return visit to the dentist after our annual check-up. With that in mind, I use this space to address what is the most common chronic childhood disease in America today: tooth decay.

Did you know that one in 10 children will go to school every day despite tooth aches?  Or that three out of four children will suffer from tooth decay before graduating high school?  It’s true, and it’s why dentists have dedicated an entire month to children’s dental awareness (February), hoping to enlighten parents about the importance of promoting healthy habits at an early age through brushing and flossing twice daily, as well as eating foods that contribute to good oral health.

What foods promote good oral health?  Well, two of them are cranberries and blueberries, as they contain a natural sweetener, xylitol, which dentists believe is the best sweetener there is as it eliminates the bacterial infections that cause tooth decay.

But another food that promotes oral health is yogurt.  Researchers say that yogurt may prove beneficial in eliminating gum disease, another common oral health malady, thanks to yogurt’s high lactic acid content.  But in particular, researcher and Doctor Yoshihiro Shimazaki says the lactobacilli in yogurt—a genus that helps convert sugars to lactic acid—may be the chief bacterium worthy of dentists’ praise (remember…not all bacteria is bad!).

Researchers came to this conclusion after analyzing the diets of nearly 950 men and women with periodontal disease.  What they found was that the men and women whose periodontal disease was the least advanced consumed foods with high amounts of lactic acid.  And those men and women whose periodontal disease was the most advanced?  You guessed it – their intake of foods with lactic acid was low, comparatively speaking.

What’s interesting, though, is that not all foods with high amounts of lactic acid, such as milk and cheese, reduced the severity of periodontal disease.  In other words, dairy is not necessarily a “mouth-healthy” food group.  To this point, the findings are restricted to yogurt.

As with all of these studies, more research needs to be done before the researchers can say definitively that the continued eating of yogurt prevents the progression of periodontal disease.  In the meantime, when selecting yogurt (preferably blueberry flavored), make sure the brand you buy is branded “organic.” Since 2002, companies that claim their products to be organic must meet strict federally-mandated guidelines before being certified.  In other words, if it says organic, rest assured it is.

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