A vegetarian or vegan diet can boast numerous health benefits, but if not monitored properly it can have harmful affect on your teeth and bone health. A study published by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that vegetarians are much more likely to suffer from tooth decay, more acidic salivary (spit) pH levels, and lower stimulated saliva flow than non-vegetarians.
Why does this occur, and what is missing from a vegetarian or vegan diet that may lead to tooth decay? The main culprit is a lack of calcium and vitamin D.
Although a vegetarian or vegan diet provides an abundance of antioxidants and other benefits to your health, it does give up traditional sources of nutrients which can increase the risk for gum disease and tooth decay. Vegetarians often incorporate a more grain-heavy diet which are high in sugars which can also increase the risk for cavities. Replacing the animal based products that supply important nutrients like vitamin D, vitamin B12, and calcium with plant-based products that supply similar nourishment or supplements can do a lot to maintain positive oral health as a vegetarian or vegan.
Reliable Calcium Sources
Dairy is one of the most popular sources of calcium, the mineral which helps make teeth and bones strong. Cheese, calcium-fortified cereal, and milk all contain that essential bone-building mineral. Vegetarians can also rely on eggs for protein and necessary vitamins like B2, and dairy. Vegans avoid all animal products but thankfully some of the most precious sources of calcium are completely vegetarian and vegan friendly such as tofu, broccoli, leafy greens, okra, and soybeans.
Reliable Sources of Vitamin D
Commonly referred to as the sunshine vitamin, Vitamin D plays an important role in bone health, as well as in immune, nerve, and muscle function. Vitamin D can also play a role in protecting against stroke, diabetes, autoimmune disease, heart disease, and cancer. Our bodies creative and absorb vitamin D from sun exposure but you can also find vegan and vegetarian appropriate foods to ensure you're receiving a full range of vitamin D. These include portobello and maitake mushrooms, as well as products fortified with vitamin D, such as orange juice, soy yogurt, and cereals. Vegetarians can utilize cheese, egg, and fortified milks and yogurts.
It can be important to discuss adding vitamin D dietary supplements with your healthcare provider when you're a vegan or vegetarian. They can help you decide how much supplementation is best for you.
If you're a vegetarian or vegan who has tackled oral health with your own methods, feel free to reach out and tell us your story! We love hearing from you!