Is Chocolate Milk Bad for Teeth?

People want to know how to prevent tooth decay and how diet can help.

Research suggests the calcium and phosphorus in milk can help maintain the integrity of our teeth. But what about flavored milk?

Many factors are involved in keeping our mouths and teeth healthy, including a healthy eating pattern that includes nutrient-rich foods like milk, whether flavored or unflavored.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recognizes that what we eat can affect the health of our mouths and teeth. They recommend children eat a balanced diet that includes foods from major food groups, including fruit, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy foods like milk, yogurt and cheese. Flavored milk contains the same nine essential nutrients as white milk, it simply has some additional ingredients like added sugar and flavoring, whether chocolate, strawberry or another flavor.

AAPD recommends limiting foods containing sugar and starch that can be fermented by cavity-causing bacteria. This process produces acid that damages teeth. Although flavored milk contains added sugars, it contributes only about 4 percent of the added sugars in the diets of U.S. children, on average, and may actually help them meet dairy recommendations. A recent analysis of NHANES 2001-2012 data found that children who drank flavored milk drank more milk overall and had higher calcium intakes than those who did not drink flavored milk. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes that some added sugars can be included as part of a healthy diet to help increase consumption of nutrient-rich foods as long as added sugars do not exceed 10 percent of total calories.

The American Dental Association similarly recognizes that what we eat affects our teeth. They say including dairy foods, along with plenty of fruits, vegetables and water, will help people of all ages maintain health.

To enjoy flavored milk while still maintaining healthy teeth, follow these simple tips:

  • Drink flavored milk with meals rather than between meals.
  • Drink, rather than sip, flavored milk and other sweetened beverages to decrease the time teeth are exposed to sugar.

And don’t forget the other good habits for dental care that will help protect your smile.

For an in-depth look at the role of dairy foods in dental health, see Dairy and Dental Health: What is the Connection?