How Popular Diets Impact Oral Health

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There are so many types of diets out there, that many of our patients ask us what is the best one to follow. We often say that each body is different and your needs are different than other person’s. Listening to your body and your own personal needs are essential for long-lasting health. What is healthy for one person may not be the best thing for another.  But how do diets impact oral health?

By looking in your mouth, our dentists may find out more about you than you realize, including what type of diet you stick to. Here are common types of diets and the oral health issues associated with each.

Vegetarian

Health concerns, such as high fat and cholesterol in foods, have prompted a lot of our patients to become vegetarians. While a vegetarian diet can have many health benefits, vegetarians should be aware of how this lifestyle can affect their oral health. By eliminating certain types of food groups, vegetarians will risk missing out on some essential nutrients that are important for good oral health.

According to the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), an adult who eats a vegetarian diet for a prolonged period of time could be at an increased risk for periodontal (gum) disease. This is because of the lack of vitamin D and calcium.

A lack of vitamin D and calcium can cause teeth to soften over a period of time, which makes the tooth surface more susceptible to bacterial infections and tooth decay. This can lead to periodontal disease. However, vitamin D is produced naturally in the human body with sun exposure. Deficiencies in calcium are more common, but can be easily remedied with a proper diet. If you are a vegetarian, make sure you get enough calcium and vitamin D.

Vegan

The vegan diet is an animal-free diet, which is a good approach for some people with food allergies or animal lovers. However, with the lack of dairy or meat products there is a potential for low protein intake. Protein is essential for healthy teeth and strong gums. Vegans can sometimes lean on high fat foods, which can clog arteries or lead to inflammation. This is a key underlying factor to periodontal disease. If you are vegan, choose fiber-filled foods that have protein. The foods found most protective and healthy include raw and green/leafy vegetables, tomatoes, and carrots.

Paleo
The Paleo diet and lifestyle is based on the hunter-gatherers who roamed the earth 15,000 years ago. If our ancestors ate it back then, then people on this type of diet can eat it now. This means most products on the grocery store shelf are a big no-no: no processed foods, no refined sugar, and no chemical by-products. It is a strict diet that can help many people become leaner and healthier.

According to researchers at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Scientists, a recent study concluded that nuts helped our ancestors’ survival, but led to massive tooth decay and bad breath among more than half the population.

Eating acorns and nuts severely diminished the oral health of early humans, which means it could be affecting our health too. The Paleo diet is somewhat dependent on nuts for protein, so be careful and consult your physician before starting any diet.

Atkins

The Atkins diet is a low carbohydrate diet that eliminates white flour and rice. This type of diet is one of the longest-lasting trends in appetite control. It is also known as the low-carbohydrate diet. Research shows that the nutrition in this diet may have stabilizing or damaging effects to the oral cavity. Our registered dental hygienists and compassionate doctors inform our with patients of the possible effects on the oral cavity, including the topic of bad breath, or halitosis.

We recommend to our patients the following suggestions. All are confirmed with the Academy of General Dentistry:
Drink a lot of water
Chew sugar-free gum with Xylitol or suck on sugarless mints
Brush and floss after every meal

These recommendations can help mask bad breath, but they will only have a temporary effect. The best thing to do is visit us so we can help identify the source and focus on a remedy.

There are multiple types of diets and lifestyles available to try. The best thing to do is consult with your health professional and visit us for an oral health examine before trying any new diet.

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