Whether you are a vegetarian because of your morals, your religion, or your health, you should think about your teeth. A vegetarian diet might make you healthier overall, but it’s important to make sure your meals are well-balanced. If you cut out certain food groups, you might need more of some important nutrients for your teeth and gums.
What Is a Vegetarian Diet?
Those who avoid eating meat are known as vegetarians. Definitions of who is a vegetarian vary, but there are usually three main groups:
- Pescatarians eat seafood, but they don’t eat meat or poultry.
- Lacto-ovo vegetarians don’t eat meat or seafood, but they do eat milk, eggs, and honey, which come from animals.
- Vegans also called “strict vegetarians,” don’t eat animal products or byproducts. This means they don’t eat dairy, eggs, or honey. Aside from what they eat, some vegans might also avoid using animal products for other things, like wearing shoes made of leather.
A study by Dalhousie University showed that almost 10% of Canadians identify as vegans and vegetarians.
How Can a Vegetarian Diet Improve Oral Health
Some things that can be part of a healthy vegetarian diet are:
Vegetables That Are High in Vitamins
Many vegetarians choose to eat more vegetables by eliminating meat from their diets. Vegetables are a good source of fibre, which can help wash away plaque. They also have vitamins and minerals that are important for good oral health. For example, leafy greens are full of vitamin C, which is good for your gums. Sweet potatoes and carrots are full of vitamin A, which can help your immune system work better and help your mouth heal faster.
No Animal Products with Lots of Cholesterol
When you stop eating animals, you also stop eating a major cause of heart disease and high blood pressure. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that a vegetarian diet is linked to a lower risk of dying from heart disease, lower blood pressure, and less hypertension.
How Can a Vegetarian Diet Harm Oral Health
A vegetarian diet can have some specific risks when not planned with health in mind.
Increased Dental Erosion
Meta-analyses of the research show that erosion, or wear on the teeth, can happen more often in vegetarians. What gives? Vegans and vegetarians may eat more acidic foods, like fruits, and starchy foods, which can make teeth decay faster.
Not Enough Key Nutrients
Any dietary restrictions can make it more likely that you will need more of some important nutrients. For example, vitamins B12 and D are two nutrients that vegetarians and vegans often don’t get enough of. Most of these vitamins come from animal products, but they can also be found in plant-based foods. Protein and calcium can also be missing.
Lots of Carbs
You may turn to carbs to help you feel full, like when you eat French fries and meatless nuggets. Most foods high in carbohydrates, like bread, pasta, and potatoes, come from plants, so they are easy to eat on a vegetarian or vegan diet. Unfortunately, this kind of unhealthy meal can give you cavities and make your blood sugar go up.
A Healthy Diet Is Important for Everyone
Whether you are a pescatarian, a vegan, an omnivore, or a vegetarian, your dental and overall health depend on a balanced diet.
Eating well and taking care of your mouth is the best way to avoid gum and tooth problems. Vegetarians and everyone else can get a healthy, well-rounded diet and a healthy smile by eating a balanced variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes.