You may choose to adopt a vegetarian diet for a variety of reasons ranging from nutritional purposes to animal cruelty concerns. However, like any diet, it is important to consider the positive and negative impacts of altering the way that you eat. Be sure to consider how your vegetarian diet could affect your oral health, and take steps in order to keep your mouth healthy.
Dental Concerns for Vegetarians
Many adult vegetarians are extremely knowledgeable about proper nutrition, and they are able to maintain a healthy diet by consuming a good variety of legumes, grains, fruits, and vegetables. However, the Academy of General Dentistry has indicated that when adults eat a vegetarian diet for an extended period of time, they will be at an increased risk for developing gum disease due to a lack of calcium and vitamin D in the diet.
Failure to get enough vitamin D and calcium in your diet can cause a variety of oral health concerns. The teeth may begin to soften with time, making them more susceptible to gum disease and tooth decay. Teens and children that decide to become vegetarians are especially susceptible to these problems, as they likely won't be well educated about their nutritional needs. Fortunately, calcium deficiencies can be remedied easily by altering your diet to consume more dairy products and calcium-rich vegetables.
Oral Health Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet
A vegetarian diet can also benefit oral health in a variety of ways. Research on the impact of vegetarianism has shown that this diet can improve periodontal health. For example, a German study examined 100 vegetarians and 100 non-vegetarians and found that the vegetarians had better periodontal health indicators. This included fewer missing teeth, less bleeding of the gums, and teeth that appeared to be less mobile.
A diet that is rich in fresh vegetables and fruits can also benefit the dental health because these food items will increase saliva production. This will neutralize acids, and since fruits and veggies don't contain carbs that can be easily fermented by bacteria, the fiber content may help to clean the teeth. This will ultimately protect the teeth against cavities.
Supplements for Vegetarians
There are a variety of supplement options available today that can help vegetarians to achieve proper nutritional intake, and some of these supplements could also offer dental benefits:
Grape seed extract. This supplement is known for being a powerful antioxidant and includes anti-inflammatory properties.
Aloe vera gel. When applied directly to the inflamed gums, aloe vera gel can relieve gum inflammation while soothing the tissues.
Vitamin C. This vitamin works to promote healing of the gum tissue, and this can be especially helpful for tissues that are bleeding or inflamed as a result of gum disease.
Coenzyme Q10. Research has shown that this supplement can actually promote cell growth and gum healing.
Green tea extract. This supplement is helpful in plaque reduction, preventing tooth decay, and easing gum inflammation.
Lysine. Research has shown that lysine can be beneficial in combating some canker sores.
Echinacea. This supplement can boost your immune function while also reducing inflammation of the gums and oral tissues.
Vegetarians Need to Make Regular Dental Appointments
It is recommended that everyone visits their dentist every six months, but vegetarians should be especially sure that they adhere to this guideline. Many dentists recommend that anyone who is considering adopting a vegetarian diet seeks guidance from their dentist about how to substitute foods that will give them all of their necessary nutrients to maintain proper oral health.
If you are a vegetarian and it has been awhile since you've been to the dentist, please contact us to set up an evaluation to ensure that your diet isn't negatively affecting your oral health.
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