Like the proverbial two-sided coin, the question of whether the vegan diet is healthy or unhealthy is moot and surrounded by controversy.
On one hand, there are those who assert that veganism deprives the individual of essential nutrients for healthy living – animal-based proteins and dairy-based calcium immediately spring to mind. On the other, vegans will attest to the healing properties of plant-based diets with fringe benefits including weight loss and reduced skin allergies.
The intention of this article, while not making a definitive stand on the matter, is to weigh up existing evidence and healthcare concerns from a dental standpoint. Let’s take a look at some of these dental pros and cons of being a vegan:
Periodontal (Gum) Disease: A diet that consists of high saturated fats – that occur naturally in animal-based foods like lamb, beef, pork, cheese, butter, skin and poultry – can lead to inflammation, which is a major cause for gum disease.1 Conversely, a plant-based vegan diet encourages a high intake of high-fibre foods – especially fruits – that have the effect of slowing down the progression of periodontal disease.1
Oral Cancer: According to a review published in the journal of the American Dental Association, the vegans’ choice of whole-foods and plant-based diets offer the best dietary defence against oral cancer.1 In particular, vegan diets that contain a lot of raw vegetables (i.e. tomatoes, leafy greens and carrots) and citrus fruits are highly recommended for their preventative benefits.1
Fat-soluble Vitamins: It is found in the diets of people without cavities an abundance of fat-soluble vitamins, which is mainly found in animal-based foods. However, vegans can make up for the loss through other sources like avocado, coconut oil, nuts and cold pressed olive oil.
Fruit Juice: The vegan diet consists predominantly of fruits as well as organic beverages extracted from them. However, fruit juice can harm your teeth in several ways. Pure fruit juice may contain more sugar than a soda drink.2 Consumed by oral bacteria, the sugar converts into acid that attacks your teeth and causes cavities.2 The acids found in common fruit juices, such as cranberry or lime, can also wear down your tooth enamel over time and lead to tooth decay.2
Plaque Prevention: Researchers have found that L-arginine decreases the ability for bacteria to clump and stick together, hence is beneficial for breaking down the bacterial layers in dental plaque.3 L-arginine is a type of amino acid which is found naturally in meat.3 The ability of L-arginine to prevent the formation of dental plaque is missing in a vegan’s diet, giving rise to the importance of a well-balanced diet for the entire body – including teeth and gums.3
Whether or not you follow a vegan diet, it is important to regularly monitor your dental health to make sure that your teeth and gums are getting all the nutrients they need while not being exposed to harmful substances. You can also book an appointment with a dentist to discuss your diet and its effects on your dental health.
At Face Value Dental, the health and beauty of your smile is important to us. If you’re interested to find out more about our wide range of dental services, please contact us on (07 3221 0677.
1. Michael Greger. "Do Vegans Get More Cavities?" NutritionFacts.org. July 25th, 2013. https://nutritionfacts.org/2013/07/25/do-vegans-get-more-cavities/.
2. "Is Fruit Juice Harmful to Your Teeth?" Fitday. http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/tips/all-that-matters-is-calories-and-more-of-the-worst-nutrition-advice.html.
3. Dr Rachel Hall. "Is being vegan bad for your teeth." Evolve Dental Healing. http://www.evolvedental.com.au/resources/blog/being-vegan-bad-your-teeth.