We often use the phrase “say cheese” when prompting people to smile for the camera. But cheese is more than a catchy phrase. It really does help your smile—or at least your teeth.
Professor Lisa Mallonee, a dually licensed registered dietitian and registered dental hygienist at Texas A&M College of Dentistry, recommends pairing cheese when choosing cavity-causing foods for in-between-meal snacking to help neutralize the pH in the mouth.
Why does that matter? Our mouth has a low pH, which means it is a naturally acidic environment. When we eat or drink, the pH level becomes even lower and increases the risk for decay. Although saliva does act as a neutralizer in restoring the pH levels in the mouth, there are some foods—including cheese—that can help boost the pH faster. Chewing cheese increases the flow of saliva and helps clear out cavity-causing sugar and bacteria.
A study published by the Academy of General Dentistry found that after research subjects ate a bite of cheese, the pH levels in their mouth remained elevated for 30 minutes. Cheese has other benefits as well. The protein in cheese known as casein creates a protective film around teeth to keep acid from attaching to the tooth enamel, and it also strengthens the enamel.
So the next time you want to reach for a snack, say “no” to the carbohydrate- and sugar-loaded snacks and instead say “cheese.” Your smile will thank you for it.