Pediatric HealthSource: Does Milk Cause Tooth Decay in Kids?

Parents should follow advice from their dentist, but overall the beverage is more healthful than harmful. Here are some tips.

Dr. Janice Townsend
Inset: Dr. Janice Townsend

Q: My daughter loves milk and drinks it constantly, but I’ve heard that it could have a negative impact on her teeth. Could drinking milk lead to cavities?

A: We all know that regular brushing plays a key role in preventing decay, but parents are becoming increasingly aware that the foods and beverages their child consumes can play a big role in developing cavities, too.

It should come as no surprise that soft drinks can lead to cavities, and juices can also be a cause for concern, but what about milk? Milk is rich in calcium, which strengthens bones and teeth, but could it cause cavities?

It’s true that milk and milk alternatives may lead to cavities if they are consumed inappropriately. For example, a baby might develop cavities on his or her upper front teeth if put to bed with a bottle of milk.

However, if given in a cup with meals, plain cow’s milk does not typically cause cavities in children, and research suggests the same for milk alternatives. Still, parents should be mindful that flavored milks, such as chocolate or strawberry, contain sucrose and are more likely to cause cavities.

Every child is unique, and it’s important to visit your child’s dentist regularly for specific recommendations and to check for cavities.

For more pediatric health news parents can use, visit our blog: 700childrens.nationwidechildrens.org.

Dr. Janice Townsend is chief of pediatric dentistry at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

This story is from the Spring 2021 issue of Columbus Parent.

TIPS FOR PARENTS

  • Avoid milk in baby’s sippy cup at bedtime. Babies could develop cavities on their upper front teeth if they are put to bed with a bottle of milk. Once their teeth come in, only water should be in their bottle or sippy cup at night.
  • Limit juices and eliminate soft drinks. Juice has little nutritional value and is often packed with excess calories and sugar. Parents should avoid giving children soft drinks of any kind.
  • Be wary of sugary milk or milk substitutes. Limit sugar-containing drinks, including milk and milk alternatives, to mealtimes.