Vegan Dental Health: Will Your Teeth Thank You for Going Vegan?
The vegan diet has never been more popular, and it’s a lifestyle choice that’s still on the rise. While people are giving up animal products for several different reasons, including animal cruelty and global warming, many people have been persuaded by the health benefits.
A vegan diet has been shown to help people lose weight, increase energy levels, reduce risk of heart disease and even fight cancer. But how exactly does going vegan affect your dental health? After all, don’t we need cow’s milk to help keep our teeth strong?
While vegans can have perfectly healthy teeth, they can face more dental problems after cutting out animal products. Here’s everything you need to know about vegan dental health problems and preventative dental care so that you can maintain healthy teeth without animal products.
Vegan Dental Health Problems
Too Much Fruit Can Cause Decay
The vegan diet often involves a lot of fruit, from smoothies and fruit-based desserts to simple fruit snacks. And while it’s important to get your five a day, too much fruit can interfere with your dental health.
Fruit has high sugar and acidity levels, which can help enamel-eating bacteria thrive and cause erosion. This can then lead to tooth sensitivity, discoloration and cracked teeth.
But before you push your fruit bowl away in disgust, that’s not to say that you should cut out fruit entirely. Fruit is still good for you and your overall health; you just need to make sure you’re not overdoing it.
Try to cut down on fruits with high acidity levels, like citrus fruits, and make sure you have a balanced diet — don’t just eat apples and oranges all day. And when you do eat fruit, rinse your mouth with water afterwards. This will prevent sugar from lingering on your teeth and causing decay.
Vegans Need to Eat Calcium Substitutes
Milk is important for strong teeth and bones because of the calcium. But vegans cut out the dairy food group entirely, so they need to find calcium in natural and fortified foods to make sure their teeth and jaw bones stay strong and healthy.
Calcium deficiency can cause brittle teeth that might crack or become sensitive, and it could even lead to tooth loss. Luckily though, it’s super easy to find calcium sources in a vegan diet.
Most vegan milk alternatives, such as coconut, almond and soy milk, will be fortified with calcium. So drinking a glass of vegan milk or enjoying a bowl of cereal with one of these milk alternatives is going to give you roughly the same amount of calcium that you’d find in dairy products. There are also non-fortified foods that contain calcium, such as broccoli, kale, cabbage and soybeans.
Regular Snacking Can Cause More Plaque
Vegans have been found to snack more often than most people, but snacking is a habit that can cause more plaque to build up on teeth.
Regular snacking causes debris, sugar and acid to constantly build up in the mouth, creating an environment where plaque can grow quickly. Within 20 seconds of sugar entering your mouth, it starts attacking your teeth.
This dental problem isn’t necessarily just relevant to vegans though, and it can be easily avoided by snacking less or swapping sugary treats for healthy snacks. By snacking less, you won’t be constantly feeding plaque and bacteria. If you do feel peckish in between meals, you could always munch on healthy snacks like celery, carrots or cucumber sticks.
Healthy Teeth Need Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 can only be found naturally in animal products, which vegans can’t eat. But B12 helps teeth and gums stay healthy, and a B12 deficiency can lead to periodontitis (gum disease) and tooth loss. Thanks to fortified foods and supplements, though, vegans don’t have to risk losing their teeth.
Dairy-free milk alternatives, and some cereals and soy products, are fortified with B12, but if you don’t fancy any of these fortified foods, there are always supplement tablets.
Maintaining Healthy Teeth as a Vegan
Thanks to the popularity of veganism, suppliers are making sure vegans have a wide variety of food and all the nutrients they could possibly want or need. Staying healthy and looking after your teeth as a vegan is relatively easy to do, but it does require some thought. Here are some tips to help you maintain healthy teeth as a vegan.
Eat a Balanced Diet
As a vegan, eating a balanced diet is even more important, as the vegan diet puts you more at risk of deficiencies. Certain nutrient deficiencies can cause dental health and structure problems.
Vegans who have experienced dental health problems usually haven’t thought about balancing their diet, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. The main thing to think about when planning meals is which foods offer nutrients that most people find in animal products. Consider where you’ll get your B12, calcium and omega-3 fats.
Finding Nutrients in Fortified Foods and Supplements
If there are no natural plant-based foods that contain certain nutrients, you might need to turn to fortified foods or supplements. Try to include vegan milk in your diet somehow, as this is a great source of calcium and B12. Vegans often also need vitamin and nutrient supplements, particularly vitamin D and omega 3. You can find supplement tablets in most pharmacies and health shops or even in supermarkets.
Talk to Your Dentist about Going Vegan
Your dentist knows better than anyone what your teeth need, so if you’re concerned about how a change in diet might affect your dental health, speak to your dentist about it. They’ll be able to assess the health of your mouth and advise you what foods to avoid or limit in your diet.
If your dentist is aware of any diet and lifestyle changes, they’ll also be able to schedule checkups with you to see how your teeth respond to a vegan diet and keep on top of any potential problems.