Whether becoming vegetarian is a personal choice or a medical choice, keeping a balanced diet is pertinent to reducing risk of tooth decay and other oral diseases. Eating a nutritious diet is not just for reducing heart disease!
Are vegetarians at risk?
While a vegetarian diet can provide health benefits, when eliminating certain food groups (like protein and calcium), it is important to supplement that diet with vegetables and alternatives that fulfill those food group requirements. If you’re an adult on a prolonged vegetarian diet, you should be aware that not fulfilling your protein and calcium food group can increase your risk of periodontal (gum) disease.
What Does Calcium and Protein Do For Teeth?
Calcium contributes to bone development, bone strengthening, and healthy tooth enamel. It is important to increase calcium intake when we get older because calcium absorption does not work as well, making us more prone to getting osteoporosis. Proteins are typically rich in Vitamin D and phosphorous, promoting healthy teeth and reducing tooth decay.
Vegetarian Teeth-Healthy Diet Suggestions:
- Kale. This vegetable ranks among one of the highest in the amount of calcium it has per serving (1 cup). Not only is kale in season during the winter, but there are multiple ways you can eat and prepare kale: steamed, raw in a salad, featured in a soup, or baked as kale chips! If you don’t like kale, consider eating arugula, turnip greens, or broccoli rabe. These vegetables are packed with calcium.
- Fish. To supplement your Vitamin D requirement, certain types of fish such as Mackerel, Atlantic Herring, Salmon, or sardines pack loads of Vitamin D. Baked, fried, grilled, or eaten raw, incorporating fish into your diet will boost your Vitamin D, reducing your risk of soft teeth. If you do not eat fish, some alternative options are tofu or white button mushrooms.
- Almonds, dried soybeans, or wheat bran. Riboflavin or Vitamin B2 contribute to healthy cellular growth and maintain the supply of your other B vitamins. Although it is arguable that there is nothing that is plant-based to supplement any B vitamins, if you are a strict vegetarian, you can eat almonds, dried soybeans, or wheat bran as supplement. While this does not directly relate toward healthy bone and teeth growth, eating foods with B vitamins are pertinent to a healthy diet.
- Tempeh, miso, nutritional yeast. On the note of B vitamins, Vitamin B12 is essential in cell growth and blood formation. This vitamin also contributes in assisting your body in protein metabolization.
If you’re a seasoned vegetarian and have incorporated these foods in your diet, keep on doing so – your teeth will thank you later. If you’re a new vegetarian, this can act as a starter’s guide.
It is also important that you tell your dental professional about your dietary restrictions, they may have more helpful tips and suggestions to keep those pearly whites healthy!
Are any of your readers vegetarians? Let me know in the comments below about any dental problems you’ve had due to your diet. I’d love to hear about them.
Thu Nguyen is writing on behalf of Austin Oral Maxillofacial Surgery, an Austin-based oral surgery practice. Thu isn’t a vegetarian but finds the possible dental implications to be quite interesting.