People are becoming vegetarians for many reasons. Personal health concerns like heart disease and cholesterol, social health issues like factory farming and disease, and environmental issues like global warming all give compelling reasons for people to give up meat.
But does giving up meat mean giving up on your oral health?
Many dentists, led by the Academy of General Dentists, have expressed concern that vegetarians may not be getting the nutrition they need to keep their teeth and gums healthy.
Several nutrients vital to the health of your teeth and gums can be harder to get in a vegetarian diet, including vitamin B2, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and calcium. The likelihood of deficiencies increases in vegans, who don’t consume any animal products.
Vegetarianism Improves Periodontal Health
The above concerns are primarily theoretical, but recent research has given some good news about vegetarianism and oral health–but also some bad.
A study that looked at the oral health of 100 vegetarians and 100 non-vegetarians in Germany found that the vegetarians had significantly better periodontal health with fewer signs of gum disease. They had shallower pocket depths, less bleeding on probing, less mobile teeth, and fewer missing teeth.
However, researchers found that vegetarians had worse dental health. They had more tooth decay and more eroded teeth. Researchers attributed the increased risk of decay to less visits to the dentist and less use of fluoride toothpaste, which sometimes contains animal products.
Maintaining Oral Health as a Vegetarian or Vegan
First, make sure you schedule your regular dental checkups and cleanings. This is crucial to everyone’s oral health.
Next, find a vegetarian fluoride toothpaste that you can use. This can take some time to find, but there are several options available.
Choose a diet that is healthy and full of calcium. Kale, collards, and other hearty greens can help you get the calcium you need. There are also many fortified products, including non-dairy milks and orange juice.
Be aware of which fruits and vegetables are acidic and can erode teeth. Rinse your teeth with water after consuming acidic foods.
If you snack regularly, as many vegetarians do, follow up a snack with water or by chewing sugar-free gum.
If you are looking for more tips on a healthy lifestyle for your teeth, please call 303-759-5622 for an appointment with a dentist in Centennial at Park Meadows Dental Care.