Does Milk Actually Make Your Teeth White?

There are countless myths when it comes to oral care, and the purported benefits of dairy products has spawn many of it. Some have suggested that one should eat cheese before bed if they are unable to brush their teeth, while others believe that the rich minerals in cow’s milk makes it a perfect substitute for mouthwash. This begs an age-old question, does milk make your teeth white?

Contrary to popular belief, the answer is a resounding no, milk does not make our teeth white. However, it does reduce the ability of drinks to stain our teeth.

For context and simplicity, the term “milk” used in the rest of this article refers to cow’s milk; other forms of dairy (e.g goat, bufallo) and non-dairy (almond, soy, oat) milk will not be taken into consideration. Now, you may wonder, how does milk help to fight stains?

In a 2014 research study published on International Journal of Dental Hygiene, it was revealed that milk significantly reduces the ability of tea to stain teeth. The study was done by immersing human teeth in a tea solution for 24 hours and comparing it to a second solution which contains both tea and milk. It was concluded that caesin was the main component responsible for the results, and that its ability to reduce the formation of stains was similar in magnitude to what was achieved from bleaching treatments.

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Caesin is a protein that makes up 80% of the cow’s milk protein, the remaining 20% being whey. The “magical” protein work by binding to polyphenols (also known as tannins) found in tea; Tannins are one of the main contributors of teeth stains as they interact with chromogens — a substance that becomes colored when oxidized — and stick to the enamel.

Nonetheless, a handful of dentists have disputed the results, claiming that the “stain reduction” effect was due to the dilution of the tea which reduced its concentration and made it lighter in color.

Apart from reducing the ability stain-causing compounds to stain our teeth, casein also protects our tooth by forming a protective coating on the enamel, preventing drinks such as coffee and soft drinks from sticking onto it.

Does Lactic Acid in Milk Help Whiten Teeth?

You may have encountered articles that posits the ability of lactic acid to strengthen and whiten the teeth. This claim is false as most, if not all, milk do not contain lactic acid; the acid is only formed through fermentation. As such, lactic acid can only be found in certain dairy products such as yoghurt. While lactic acid helps to remove stains, it also decreases the pH level in the mouth and erodes the enamel. This process is known as demineralization.

In conclusion, dairy milk does not make your teeth white. Rather, it deters and prevents teeth from being stained. However, drinking too much milk or consuming sugary milk products can actually lead to discoloration and cavities. As such, it is important to maintain good oral hygiene practices and not count on milk as the all-natural remedy to make your teeth strong, healthy, and white!