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News / September 16, 2008

Milk is the white stuff to prevent dental decay

by Guy Hiscott

Encouraging children to drink milk helps reduce the risk of dental erosion and decay, according to new research.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Dental Association, found children who consumed more soft drinks, relative to milk and 100% fruit juice, were at greater risk of developing dental caries.

The researchers collected dietary information on 369 children who were aged between three and five years at the start of the study, and again two years later. Trained dentists examined the children’s teeth both at the start of the study and again two years later.

Children who had a low soft drink intake at the start of the study, but consumed a high intake of soft drink as they grew older were 1.75 times more likely to have tooth decay and receive new fillings compared with children who had a high intake of milk and fruit juice.

This new research supports previous studies in which children with a high intake pattern of milk were found to have lower caries severity.

According to the study authors, milk is a better alternative to soft drinks because of its potential protective factors, including calcium and phosphorus.

Dairy Australia dietitian Glenys Kerrins said milk proteins help protect the teeth by forming a protective barrier on the enamel surface.

‘The high levels of calcium and phosphate in milk help to prevent demineralisation – or dissolving – of the tooth enamel when exposed to acidic substances such as sugary foods and drinks.’

Ms Kerrins said the results of the study give extra relevance to the upcoming World School Milk day on 24 September.

‘World School Milk Day provides an opportunity for students to reflect on the millions of schoolchildren around the world drinking milk with their school lunch.

Schools all over the world will celebrate World School Milk Day on September 24 by drinking lots of delicious, nutritious milk.’

The 1st World School Milk Day was celebrated in September 2000 and has since become an annual event celebrated in many countries throughout the world and promoted actively by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations.