Background: Dental caries is a prevalent chronic disease that can be mitigated by forms of diet therapy. Cheese is one food item frequently recommended by dental professionals for its potential cariostatic effects. Substantial bench research indicates cheese may protect against demineralization through a variety of mechanisms such as buffering plaque pH levels and increasing concentrations of protective ions. However, the effect of cheese on human tooth decay in natural settings has been less well established in the literature. As such, the objective of this study was to conduct a systematic review of the literature to determine the effect of cheese on risk factors and development of caries lesions in humans.
Materials and Methods: A systematic search of the literature was conducted across six electronic databases, including Medline, Embase, Cochrane Controlled Trials, Scopus, CINAHL, and Cochrane Library. A Google Scholar search was also conducted. Inclusion criteria were experimental studies of cheese consumption in humans and outcomes related to caries risk factors or caries development. Studies were appraised for methodologic quality. The study results were summarized using descriptive analysis.
Results: The initial search yielded 323 articles, 9 of which met the inclusion criteria. A variety of cheese products were shown to have positive effects on multiple caries risk factors such as plaque calcium and pH levels; salivary calcium, phosphate, and pH levels; and Streptococcus mutans, lactobacilli, and yeast counts. The majority of included studies were of weak to moderate quality, subject to multiple avenues of potential bias, limited sample sizes, and inadequate study descriptions. Two studies were of good quality, indicating potential for cheese as a cariostatic agent.
Conclusion: Although there is some evidence that cheese may be used as a dietary intervention to reduce caries development, further high-quality studies are needed to support this conclusion.
Keywords: cariostatic, cheese, dental caries, diet therapy, oral health, systematic review