Remember, protecting your oral health is about more than just brushing, flossing, and making your regular dental checkups. In fact, the most important factor in protecting your teeth from decay is probably controlling your diet. There are many foods that can either feed oral bacteria or cause tooth erosion. But there are also some foods that can provide a protective effect.

Yogurt has long been considered one of these foods, and now a large study out of Korea confirms that eating yogurt can protect you from gum disease.

A photo of yogurut in a cup with berries

A Large, Observational Study

The results come from a study of Korean dietary survey results from more than 6000 individuals. In the KNHANES, the Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, trained nutritionists visited Koreans in their homes to gather data.

Subjects were not only asked about the foods they ate, but also their oral hygiene habits, health-related habits such as smoking, as well as basic socioeconomic data. Surveyors also conducted a brief dental exam for each subject. This was an abbreviated exam, triggering a finding of gum disease whenever a pocket deeper than 3.5 mm (just a little over ⅛ inch).

Correlating the different dietary data with the oral health findings and accounting for various other factors, researchers found that people who consume yogurt at least once a week reduced their risk of gum disease by 18%.

What Provides the Benefit?

This result confirms suspicions that yogurt would be good for oral health, but there’s still the question of why. There are several potential sources of benefit. Calcium is good for your teeth and gums, and yogurt contains high levels of calcium.

To test whether this was the source of benefit, researchers compared gum disease rates for people with high milk consumption and those with high overall calcium consumption. But there was no significant protective effect. Therefore, researchers think that it must be something more specific to the yogurt.

Since it’s not the calcium that protected the gums, researchers believe it is likely the probiotic cultures that are commonly found in yogurt. It is believed that these cultures can sway your oral microbiome to be healthier.

Yogurt Helps Maintain a Healthy Oral Microbiome

What is your oral microbiome, you may ask? Well, let us explain. Your mouth is like an ecosystem. And like an ecosystem, there are many different inhabitants that are all competing for scarce resources.

Your diet and and oral hygiene influence what’s living there, especially whether it’s harmful microorganisms or more helpful ones. High sugar foods, for example, favor damaging oral bacteria that cause cavities. Eating less refined sugar makes it easier for you to encourage healthy microorganisms to grow. And when you eat something like yogurt, which is full of many helpful bacteria–also called probiotics–you encourage the growth of less damaging bacteria.

There are other ways to encourage the growth of a healthy oral microbiome. If you’d like to learn more of them, or get more tips about holistic dentistry practices that can help you avoid tooth decay, please call 703-323-8200 today for an appointment with Northern Virginia holistic dentist Dr. Pamela Marzban.