People unable to brush their teeth after each meal should consider a swiss or cheddar cheese snack every now and then, according to a University of Minnesota dental researcher.

"For years dentists have preached against eating sweets between meals because the plaque on your teeth mixes with sugar and forms an acid that gradually eats through the enamel," Dr. Charles Schachtely told delegates to this week's national Cheese Industry Conference, at Utah State University.Research has found that even low-sugar snacks "do not prevent this harmful acid from forming," Schachtely said Wednesday. "Any fermentable carbohydrate - virtually any solid food - would form the acid."

But he said five types of food "are considered low-acid formers. They are peanuts, eggs, popcorn, certain meats and certain cheeses.

"And some cheeses even appear to have anti-acid properties. Swiss and aged cheddar cheese seem to reduce the levels of acid formed the next time you eat a sugary food."

Some experiments show these cheeses even have "a remineralization effect," similar to fluoride in toothpaste and water, Schachtely said.

"This means they help promote repair of enamel on the teeth," he said. "We're still not quite sure what the mechanism is that produces this cavity fighting effect. We need to study the properties of these cheeses more closely."

But, for people who don't brush and floss after every snack, he said, "this could take some of the guilt out of snacking."