Milk and Teeth Myths: Is Milk Good for Children’s Teeth?

Our Dental Blog | Info & tips | 01.23.2023

Over the years, many myths have pervaded the public mind about milk. As a dietary staple for millennia, milk has an important role in the health and development of kids. So despite the growing concerns about milk and its relationship to kids’ health, cow’s milk is an important source of nutrients that are beneficial to children’s development. In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about kids, milk and teeth.

In fact, the blog here at Treehouse Dental Care is full of fantastic tips and information that will help you make better choices for your children’s teeth. So check it out here once you’re done reading this article!

The Many Benefits of Cow’s Milk for Children’s Teeth

Milk is a wonderful source of minerals that build strong teeth. It’s also filled with other nutrients that have additional benefits, but we’ll focus on teeth here.

Enamel is the hard material that coats and protects your teeth, and it’s made of calcium and phosphorus. Over time, as the enamel is exposed to acids, it wears down in a process known as demineralization.  The good news is that when our saliva has enough of these minerals, the process of demineralization slows or reverses.

That being said, if enamel loss outpaces your body’s natural healing and maintenance processes for a long period of time, you’ll end up with cavities. That’s why milk is so important– it provides the essential nutrients so your body can continue to fight against cavities. Cow’s milk is an efficient and accessible way to get essential teeth minerals in your child’s diet.

And it beats out milk variants that have the minerals supplemented. Cow’s milk has the best bioavailability of calcium and phosphorus. One study demonstrated that even though comparable milk products have similar levels of calcium and phosphorous, the minerals available in cow’s milk have greater bioavailability. That means that more minerals will circulate in your child’s body, allowing their natural protective functions to perform better.

Cow’s Milk and Teeth Myths & Questions

Now that we have a good understanding of why milk is so important for children’s teeth, let’s take a look at the myths and questions that have stuck in our minds over the years.

Does milk cause tooth decay and cavities in children?

Sugar in food causes acid buildup that decays the enamel on teeth. Over time, this acid causes demineralization, which in turn causes cavities. And milk contains lactose, which is a natural type of sugar. So drinking cow’s milk must cause cavities, right?

Actually, no.

Repeated studies have found that cow’s milk is not cariogenic, meaning that milk does not increase the risk of tooth decay in children. While milk contains lactose, it also contains components that fight the harmful effects of lactose. One of these components is the protein casein phosphopeptide, which is a tooth demineralization nutrient. It actually prevents cavity-causing bacteria from sticking to the surfaces of your teeth!

How much milk should children drink?

Before deciding on any nutrition plans for your child, it’s important to consult your pediatrician. But to get an idea of the decisions that you’ll be making, we’ll give you some general guidelines. The following table, which discusses cow’s milk for children, is based on recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.

As you can see, flavoured milk is not an option. And children under 12 months of age shouldn’t drink cow’s milk. Breastmilk or formula is the better option.

Should kids drink plant-based milk?

The same reports and institutions that monitor cow’s milk and children also make the recommendation against serving plant milk to children under the age of five, unless medically indicated. The most compelling conclusion from these reports was that cow’s milk had undeniably higher bioavailability than plant-based options even if they were supplemented.

Also, plant-based milk alternatives often contain added sugars, which can lead to cavities.

So if alternative kinds of milk are something you’re considering for your child’s diet, consult your pediatrician for the most updated and direct information.

Milk and Teeth and Toddlers

With all the benefits of cow’s milk for your child’s teeth, you might consider giving your toddler a bottle of milk before bed. However, the consensus between pediatricians and pediatric dentists is clear: you should not put your toddler to bed with a bottle of cow’s milk. In fact, dentists will recommend that bottle usage stops between the ages of 12 and 18 months.

Bottles obstruct the flow of saliva in children’s mouths, just like pacifiers do. As we mentioned, saliva flow is essential to protecting children’s teeth from harmful acids. This simple fact of bottles causes many health issues. For example, if a piece of food is caught in your child’s teeth and saliva flow is inhibited, the debris can cause cavities to develop!

Pediatric Dental Expertise at Treehouse Dental

With so many choices available for modern parents, it can get overwhelming trying to stay on top of research and professional suggestions. When it comes to milk, you can be confident that it’s an essential source of nutrients for children over the age of 12 months. The phosphorus and calcium in cow’s milk help teeth remineralize.

If you’re looking for professional advice, there’s no better place to visit than Treehouse Dental Care. Our team of professionals are experts in pediatric dentistry. We know the ins and outs of taking care of your child’s teeth. So give us a call with your questions at  1-833-943-8277. Or, take a look at our comprehensive pediatric dental services here.

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