Veganism and Dental Health – What You Need to Know
Vegan diets are all the rage. The Vegan Society says the number of Brits turning to vegan lifestyles quadrupled from 150,000 in 2014 to 600,000 in 2019.
Almost half of them made the switch in 2018 – suggesting the number of UK vegans isn’t just rising but shooting up exponentially.
While there’s no doubt that veganism is good for both animals and the environment, some dental experts have warned the lifestyle may not be as kind to our teeth.
Calcium and Protein
The absence of dairy and meat from vegan diets can leave a shortfall in calcium and protein – both of which play a vital role in the production and protection of tooth enamel.
Weakened enamel makes the teeth susceptible to corrosion from starchy and acidic foods, leaving them prone to cavities and decay. It also causes other problems like staining and increased sensitivity.
Of course, this isn’t helped by the fact that vegan diets often contain more of those offending starch and acidic foods like fruits and grains.
To get the calcium you need, make sure to eat plenty of beans, and lentils, as well as broccoli, spinach, kale and other greens. Vegan milk alternatives derived from soy or almonds are also a great source.
And without careful planning, it’s also easy to miss out on vitamins which play a vital role in maintaining tip-top oral health.
Found in animal products like fish, meat and dairy, vitamin B12 plays a crucial role in gum health. But it is found most abundantly in meat, fish and dairy products. Miss out on this wonder vitamin and you risk gum disease and – eventually – tooth loss.
While cereals, plant-based milk and soy products contain some B12, the vegan society recommends eating B12 fortified foods at least three times a day or taking supplements to boost B12 levels.
You can further protect oral health by making sure your diet is packed full of teeth and gum-friendly vitamins.
Vitamin A – found in carotene-rich bright orange foods like pumpkin, sweet potato and of course, carrots – is fundamental to the health of your mouth’s mucous membrane. It’s fantastic in the fight against dry mouth.
Meanwhile, vitamin D, which helps your body absorb the calcium we mentioned earlier, can be found in mushrooms and some cereals. You’ll also get this from stepping into the sunshine when the British weather allows.
Sugar & Starch
With less hunger-busting protein in your diet, you may find yourself snacking more in the day. Try swapping sugary and starchy snacks like bread, pasta and cakes for energy-giving nuts, seeds, vegetables and tofu.
Giving up on meat doesn’t mean giving up on your usual hygiene routine. Continue brushing twice daily and flossing or using an interdental brush to get rid of food debris and acid. Regular dental checkups should also remain a firm fixture.