The Scoop on Ice Cream and Your Teeth

I scream, you scream, many of us scream for ice cream in the summer. Especially in places like Austin, where the summer is so long and hot that we commemorate the cool treat with the annual Austin Ice Cream Festival.

ice cream photo
Photo by gordonramsaysubmissions

Although it may not be the best thing for your waistline, ice cream has some specific, and perhaps surprising, dental benefits.

A Wise Choice after Wisdom Teeth Removal

Many dentists recommend patients indulge in ice cream for a day or two after wisdom teeth extraction. The blood vessels that feed a tooth swell after the tooth is extracted, and cause inflammation and discomfort.

The directly applied cool temperature of ice cream constricts these blood vessels, which reduces swelling and pain. Soft serve or softened ice cream is best, and ice creams with added hard foods like chocolate chunks or nuts should be avoided.

Ice Cream’s Nutrients

Ice cream’s primary claim to nutritional value is its calcium content, and we know that calcium is vital to healthy teeth and bones. According to nutritional data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), a half-cup of the average ice cream contains about 8 percent of the daily recommended value of calcium.

Ice cream also contains respectable doses of vitamins A and B. Phosphorous and protein are other key ice cream nutrients.

Ice Cream Makes Us Smile

British researchers in 2005 found that eating ice cream activates the brain’s pleasure center. According to a Guardian article on the study, a single spoonful was enough to light up the receptors associated with sensations of enjoyment.

Of course, there can be too much of a good thing. A 2012 study indicated that the regular consumption of ice cream and other high-calorie foods affects the brain in ways similar to some drugs; researchers believe certain foods can induce tolerance and possess something of an addictive nature.

Ice Cream: A Health Food?

Ice cream does have some benefits, but as with so many things that taste so good, it is best enjoyed in moderation. According to the USDA, a half-cup of the average ice cream has 4.5 grams of saturated fat. That accounts for 22 percent of the recommended daily intake of saturated fat and 10 percent of total fat. Because ice cream must be at least 10 percent milk fat to be designated as ice cream, it is also high in cholesterol.

The USDA also lists an average of 14 grams of sugar per half-cup of ice cream. Dietary guidelines used by the USDA and Food and Drug Administration suggest a person’s sugar intake equal about 10 percent of daily calories consumed. For most adults, this equates to a total of about 25 to 50 grams per day, depending on weight and other individual factors.

In excess, and without good dental hygiene, ice cream contributes to tooth decay. As the Mayo Clinic notes on its cavities page, foods like ice cream that coat and stick to the teeth for an extended period are more likely to cause plaque accumulation than foods that can be flushed with saliva or water.

Austin cosmetic dentist Dr. Dan Matthews encourages you to enjoy the occasional scoop of ice cream (and to check out the Austin Ice Cream Festival on Aug. 13). If you’d like to learn more about your options for restoring a bright, healthy smile, please contact Dan Matthews, DDS, FAGD, today at 512-452-2273 to schedule a complimentary consultation at our Bee Cave Road office.

Dan Matthews DDS
Dan Matthews Dan Matthews DDS The Park at Eanes Creek,
4407 Bee Cave Road
Building 2, Suite 221
Austin, Texas, 78746
(512) 452-2273
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