More and more people are identifying as vegan, meaning that they eat a diet free of animal products such as meat and dairy. Instead, they attempt to fill all their nutritional needs with a plant-based diet composed entirely of fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, and the like. There are many reasons why someone might choose a vegan diet, ranging from concerns about animal rights to the desire for a healthier diet to a shift towards a more minimalist lifestyle. Regardless of the motivations behind it, veganism—as with any diet—should be undertaken with due consideration and expert medical advice. Everyone’s health needs and level of wellness are different, and your diet should take that into account. The question we’ll address here is the effect that a vegan diet has on your teeth and your overall oral health. It’s a complex issue, but we’ll try to cover the most important aspects of it here.
Veganism and Oral Health
Your diet shapes your oral health. Most of us have been taught since childhood to limit sugary or starchy foods to keep our teeth healthy, and that’s generally good advice. However, there are some other things you should know about your diet and your oral health if you intended to adopt a vegan lifestyle.
In principle, there’s nothing wrong with a vegan diet when it comes to your teeth. However, in practice, there are a few problems that can affect oral health. Particularly for new vegans who are just learning how to balance their new diet. Two key challenges face folks planning vegan meals.
Nutritional deficiencies are a common problem among newbie vegans who are growing into the lifestyle and learning how to substitute plant-based foods for animal-based ones. Nutritional deficiencies can affect many aspects of your overall health. Many new vegans report feeling fatigued or chronically tired shortly after adopting the diet, generally as a result of a deficiency of B and D vitamins. However, shortages of other vitamins and minerals can cause oral health issues if left unaddressed.
A frequent mistake new vegans make involves substituting starchy foods for animal foods like meat or cheese in an effort to feel satisfied after a meal. While starches aren’t bad per se, they contribute a lot of sugars which can encourage bacterial growth in the mouth. This in turn leads to more plaque and potentially cavities, tartar, and gum disease.
Caring for Your Teeth as a Vegan
So while there are challenges for maintaining your oral health as a vegan, the good news is, they’re generally surmountable. Take the time to learn to balance your new diet and thus ensure you get enough of vital vitamins and minerals like calcium, phosphorus, and B and D vitamins—dietary supplements can help a lot. Maintaining a good brushing and flossing regimen, with a focus on brushing after starch-heavy meals, is a vital part of maintaining healthy teeth and gums. And of course, regular visits to your dentist for an exam and teeth cleaning help ensure your smile will last a lifetime.
Many people prefer a vegan lifestyle and it’s certainly possible to both live vegan and have excellent oral health. As with any diet, veganism brings its own considerations you should bear in mind as you move into it, but with a little planning, you’ll have a bright and happy smile while enjoying plant-based eating habits.