Vegetarian diets are very much a part of our culture. Of course, there are different types of vegetarian diets – but all do the same thing: Limit fat intake and cholesterol.
Vegetarian diets have great overall health benefits, but some lack the key nutrients that are essential for healthy teeth and gums.
Vegans and Gum Disease: The Correlation
According to the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), a person who consumes a strict vegetarian diet for an extended period of time is at risk for gum disease from a lack of vitamin D and calcium.
A lack of vitamin D and calcium – which are found in dairy products – can cause teeth to soften over time, making them more susceptible to tooth decay and periodontal disease.
Doctors say the potential for nutritional deficiencies is greatest among children and teens who decide to become vegetarians without knowing enough about their nutritional needs. Also, some vegetarians – especially vegans, who do not consume any food of animal origin – are at risk for nutritional deficiencies in vitamin B2 and vitamin B12 as well as calcium and vitamin D, according to the AGD.
It is essential for oral health and overall health that vegetarians and vegans eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes as well as dairy or soy products to limit the risk of vitamin deficiencies. A daily multivitamin is also a good way to supplement a vegetarian diet.
Since diet is an important part of an individual’s medical history, I ask all patients to tell me if they follow vegetarian or other special diets. A healthy diet and good oral health care habits are the best defense against problems with gums and teeth.
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