Intake of dairy foods and oral health: review of epidemiological data

Amanda Rodrigues Amorim Adegboye, Mariana Tomaz, Charlote A Jeavons, Berit L Heitmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction – The relationship between diet and oral health is intriguing. Various components of milk have been suggested to be protective against oral health problems, although specific mechanisms linking dairy components to the pathogenesis of certain diseases are still unclear.

Purpose – To provide an overview of the associations between intake of milk and dairy products and dental plaque, periodontal disease and tooth loss, based on currently available literature. Method – We performed a review of relevant literature with critical appraisal of those human epidemiological studies evaluating the association between intake of milk or dairy products and periodontal disease, plaque score or tooth loss among adults and elderly.

Results – Nine studies were included in the review, eight of which were cross-sectional and only one applied a longitudinal design. None of the studies included institutionalised participants. Overall, reported studies suggested an inverse association between dairy intake and plaque score and periodontal disease. Results related to tooth loss were inclusive.

Conclusion – The methodological quality of reviewed studies was moderate to low with only one longitudinal design. Therefore, well-designed, confounding-controlled, longitudinal studies are warranted to be able to evaluate the potential protective effect of dairy intake on periodontal disease, dental plaque and tooth loss.

Oral health can be greatly enhanced by optimal daily oral hygiene and regular professional dental care. The role of diet, largely sugar consumption, on the development of dental plaque and its potential to increase dental disease has been known for some time, but original research of a good quality on this is surprisingly scarce. Many studies are decades old and would not meet modern criteria of quality or ethics. Therefore, an overview of current research into this area is needed to equip clinicians with the knowledge they need to inform and support their patients. This paper provides such data, mostly in relation to dairy products. Clinicians will be able to judge for themselves the quality of the evidence sourced and presented here and subsequently trust that the messages that they are passing on to patients are based on current, peer-reviewed, ethically sound research. Equally from the information provided here, clinical dental researchers will be able to identify promising areas for further much needed research into diet as a modifiable variable, using research methods not yet employed in this area, such as randomized controlled trials or longitudinal studies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)884-891
JournalTandlægebladet (Journal of the Danish Dental Association)
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 29 Apr 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Dairy
  • Milk
  • oral health
  • diet
  • nutrition


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