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Got Milk? Study Finds New Way to Fight Periodontal Disease

Dairy products high in lactic acid can prevent periodontal disease -- drink up!

We all know that drinking milk at a young age helps us grow strong bones and has been linked to healthy weight loss, but did you know that the ongoing consumption of dairy products also promotes periodontal health? A Japanese study published in the Journal of Periodontology demonstrated that individuals who regularly consume foods containing dairy and lactic acid had a lower instance of gum disease.

The study focused on 942 subjects aged 40 to 79. The participants were evaluated on periodontal pocket depth and clinical attachment loss, two indicators of periodontal health. It was found that individuals who consumed 55 or more grams of lactic acid products had significantly better periodontal health.

But before you head for the ice cream aisle at your local grocery store keep in mind that the study did not distinguish between the types of dairy products consumed by each patient. It is likely that products high in lactic acid, such as yogurt and buttermilk, are primarily responsible for the boost in periodontal health seen in the study.

Though the consumption of dairy products that are not rich in lactic acid, such as milk and cheese, has significant health benefits, they may have little effect on periodontal health.

Periodontal disease -- also known as gum disease -- occurs when you do not remove dental plaque buildup by brushing or flossing regularly. This dental plaque turns to dental tartar and your gums become infected. Early symptoms of gum disease include swollen gums, loose teeth and a receding gum line. If these symptoms are left untreated for too long, you could develop periodontitis, which destroys the tissue and bone that support the teeth and can cause tooth loss.

Remember that although you may be taking great care of your teeth and gums, your dentist should make the final evaluation about your oral health. Even if you are not experiencing symptoms of periodontal disease you should be having regular dental visits to make sure that you catch any dental problems early on and move forward with any necessary gum disease treatment to help prevent tooth loss.

Although more research is necessary to determine the exact effect of dairy and lactic acid products on periodontal disease, less than half of the average 6-ounce serving of yogurt will provide you with the 55 grams of lactic acid per day found to correlate with better periodontal health in the study.

There are many health benefits to consuming dairy products and now that you can add decreasing your risk of periodontal disease, you have more reason than ever to swing by the dairy aisle! (Just be sure to load up on yogurt rather than ice cream.)

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