Health

How a Vegan Diet Affects Dental Health

Veganism is a type of diet and a lifestyle that follows the consumption of animal-free products. Vegans, like vegetarians, don’t consume meat. 

However, their food restrictions are a little further wherein they avoid any and all animal products including dairy products, honey, and eggs. Some vegans don’t even wear animal products (fur and leather) and products tested on animals.

While some choose veganism for health reasons, others are motivated by animal and planet welfare.

The Impact of a Vegan Diet on Your Teeth

The ADA says that many people go on to live perfectly healthy lives without eating meat. But, vegans do tend to run a higher risk of dental tissues as they rely only on a plant-based diet. Typically, a vegan diet affects teeth in the following ways:

  • Nutritional Deficiencies – It’s common for vegans to develop nutritional deficiencies across the board. The nutritional imbalance can set into motion a more rapid tooth decay as well as gum diseases.
  • Starchy Substitutes for Meat – Most vegans rely heavily on sugary and grain-based products to substitute for dairy and meat consumption. A starchy diet can fuel the odds of cavities.
  • Snacking on Acidic Foods – Raw, plant-based foods often include acidic fruits rich in carbohydrates. Snacking too much on dry and acidic foods can damage the outer enamel layer; thus increasing the chances of tooth decay.

Vitamins/minerals Vegans Should Look Out For

Calcium Deficiency

Calcium is crucial for healthy gums and teeth. Typically you get calcium from fish and dairy products. However, for vegans, that’s not an option. They should aim to substitute their calcium with foods like kale, almonds, tofu, bok choy, soybeans, broccoli, almonds, and nut-based milk rich in calcium.

Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D is what helps to absorb calcium. Naturally, you get vitamin D by exposure to sunlight, fatty fish such as salmon, fortified milk, and eggs. To get enough vitamin D, vegans should spend more time outdoors absorbing the sunlight. Alternatively, they can opt for vitamin D supplements sourced from foods like mushrooms.

Lack of Amino Acids

It’s not uncommon for a standard vegan diet to be lacking some essential amino acids; particularly arginine. Arginine is found in dairy, fish, meat, and poultry foods. It breaks down dental plaque to keep gum disease like cavities at bay. Although these amino acids are naturally higher in meat products, foods like lentils, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, and soy products are excellent plant-based alternatives to replenish the necessary amino acids.

Snacking and Grazing

Vegans may feel a need to snack in-between meals to meet their daily nutritional requirements. However, frequent snacking can expose you to a higher risk of developing cavities and plaque build-up.

As a vegan, it’s best to limit snacking and practice good oral hygiene. Maintain healthy and regular flossing/brushing habits. Visit your dentist every six months. If necessary, you can always explore cosmetic dentistry.

Vitamin B12 

It’s essential for your DNA, red blood cells and so much more. To get the necessary vitamin B12 try to include seaweed in your diet.

Phosphorus 

Your bones and teeth rely heavily on phosphorus for maintaining their strength. You can find it in myriad plant-based foods like pumpkin seeds and lentils.

Additional Ways to Maintain Healthy Teeth on a Vegan Diet

Other than diet, factors like oral hygiene practises, genetics, and overall lifestyle also contribute largely to your dental health. With that said, below are some more tips that vegans can follow to take better care of their teeth – 

  • Eat healthy, nutritious, well-balanced meals to meet your nutritional requirements
  • Avoid frequent snacking
  • Opt for healthier snacks alternatives like tofu, nuts, vegetables like carrots and broccoli, and seeds.
  • Cut back on sugars and acidic foods
  • Maintain a healthy oral hygiene regimen

Bottom Line

Everything has pros and cons. Veganism is no exception. At first, it may seem like a healthy diet option, but if you’re not careful enough, it could deteriorate your bone health. Any diet that lacks dairy and protein (two of the 5 major food groups); always runs a higher risk of causing dental issues. 

It’s best to educate yourself about veganism, how to avoid nutritional deficiencies on a vegan diet, and ways to ensure bone and oral health for a healthy lifestyle.

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