Does the vegan diet promote healthy teeth?

by Emily

Question:
I recently went vegan a few months ago and instantly went to work to find out everything I could about veganism so I could defend myself. I have almost all of my bases covered so I can answer all my omni family's well meaning concerns for my health, but one issue has recently come up that has me baffled. I just had to have some fillings put in for some cavities in my teeth. I don't think this had to do with my diet, but it has my family all in a tizzy. They did some research about a vegan diet in relation to teeth health and found that healthy teeth has become a big problem with vegans.

I have been researching this diligently and found all kinds of opinions from "just eat more greens and calcium enriched soy products" to "a vegan diet ruined my child's teeth". I am torn over this and worried about the future health of my teeth! Does the vegan diet promote healthy teeth? Help!

Answer:
Great question, Emily. I've done a little research on this, and it seems it's still subject to some debate (if we have readers with definitive research either way, please let us know).

To start, I will say that when someone is looking to prove something, they can use research on the internet to prove anything. It sounds like your family will have looked and looked until they found that the cavities are caused by your new diet. That's most likely not true.

However, when you change your diet, you change the pH balance of your entire body, including your mouth. It would make sense that it might temporarily change your teeth as well. Since animal products are highly acidic and plant foods are basic, you could have gone from an acidic to a basic mouth very quickly, and your teeth might just be reacting to that change. Keep in mind though that a more alkaline pH is ultimately better for your body.

The reason it's hard to say one way or another is because there are so many other contributing factors. For instance, a person's exact diet, whether they use fluoride in their toothpaste or have fluoridated water sources, the amount of sugar in their diet, the amount of processed foods and white flours, how often they brush and floss, genetics, etc. It's just hard to say one way or another.

What I can say is that research shows that plant-based diets (that are well-balanced with plenty of vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fruits, and nuts/seeds) are abundant in protein and calcium, the two contributing factors to strong bones and teeth. You've probably read all about that in The China Study. People who drink less cow's milk have less chance of developing osteoporosis than those who drink more.

Also, some foods are proven to actually help prevent and cure dental cavities. Vitamin D, for instance, helps to break down the bad bacteria and can encourage regrowth in the enamel. The only plant source of D is mushrooms, but even a small amount of daily mushrooms can really help your teeth. Also, you might look into xylitol, which is even recommended by the ADA to help treat cavities. There are some gums, toothpastes, and mints like B-Fresh vegan xylitol gum that are totally animal-free, SLS-free, and even contain some vitamin B12.

So, I'd love to hear if any readers have more research for us, but for now, don't worry about losing your teeth because of your new diet. It's better for your whole body, including your teeth.

Hope that helps!

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Veganism and the health of teeth and bones.
by: michaela

I have been vegan for 36 years, and recently at the age of 55 I decided to have braces on my teeth. I read up about it beforhand and there were concerns that older people would not get back the firmness of their teeth after the braces were removed. However, not only do i now have the straight teeth I dreamed of all my life, they re set rock solid within a few weeks of having the braces emoved...the dentist was amazed!
When I became vegan there was very little information about balanced diet etc, but as i was becoming vegan for ethical reasons, this did not really concern me... i simply could not continue as a lacto vegetarian so that was that.
My health has never suffered, I replaced margarine with peanut butter and made my own nut burgers...used lentils beans etc, and also created my own confectionary.
I also broke my leg when I was 23, my leg healed very quickly, the specialist at the time was amazed because I had done a months healing in 10 days...I was walking just after a month...this was after shattering my kneecap and spliting the shin bone in two.
Also, I had early menopause at 40 and for obvious reasons never had hormone replacement therapy. My bone density now 17 years later is still perfect. I run 6k every day I walk another mile wearing ankle weights, so this is probably helping.
I work 7 days a week 8 hours a day, I sleep 5 hours (if i'm lucky) and I will be 57 next month. My sister is also vegan, she also is very active at 52. I look 20 years younger than I am....you can see where i am going with this!
A vegan diet will only benefit you, it's not difficult to get the correct nutrition, and there have never been any calcium issues with me.
This is not hereditary, there are several women in my family who developed bone loss after early menopause, but they all ate meat.

better safe than sorry
by: Anonymous

I can't answer your question, but I agree 100% with the comment above. Find a good multivitamin that provides both k2 and calcium (there are lots that are vegan and made from whole natural ingredients) and then start researching and talk to your dentist! Some people may disagree about the vitamin because a vegan diet is supposed to provide all the nutrition you need, but it's not really about the diet, it's about your personal health.

K2 is missing from vegan diet
by: BJL

Hi,

I believe the biggest issue behind vegan diets is k2 as this vitamin is vital for bringing calcium found in food into bone (including teeth).

Getting this vitamin into the diet is quite easy via the Japanese breakfast dish - Natto.

teeth and vegan diet
by: Carolin Radcliff

I recently came across an article for a vegan cooking school that related a horror story about teeth. Apparently, the founder of the vegan/vegetarian cooking school woke up one morning, and found that most of his lower teeth had fallen out during the night. He had some of them still in his mouth and the others he had swallowed in his sleep. His friend also a vegan of many years had his teeth crumble on him when he started eating something. The school, which is called "The Vegetarian Health Institute", helps people to figure out what to eat in order to avoid such problems.

Some foods, especially green leafy vegies, such as Kale, spinach and so on, contain oxalic acid. Oxalic acid interferes with the absorption of calcium in the body. The same seems to go for a lot of grains. So caution is in order. My advice: Research it, and take supplements in the meantime.

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