Vegetarian, vegan and raw food diets have spiked in popularity in recent years, and while they can offer health benefits when followed with balance they should also be accompanied by proper dental care to limit the risk of cavities.
People adopt fruit, vegan and raw food diets for a number of reasons, including personal well-being, environmental impacts, spiritual beliefs, and animal ethics concerns. Substantial clinical research has shown that quality vegetarian and vegan diets can lower a person’s risk for heart disease, diabetes, obesity, hypertension and some cancers.
Additional research, however, suggests that a diet high in raw fruits, vegetables and other unprocessed foods may heighten a person’s risk for dental enamel erosion and cavities without good daily dental hygiene.
Fruits, Raw Foods and Your Teeth
Vegan, vegetarian and raw food diets are generally high in fiber and low in fat; sugars are typically natural and unrefined, and in lower quantity than those found in conventional diets. It’s important to note that what foods a person chooses and how that food is prepared make a difference in any health benefits; there are plenty of vegetarian options that are high in fat, cholesterol and processed sugar.
There is also concern that those who follow these diets may have reduced intakes for certain vitamins and nutrients, including vitamin B-12, vitamin D, calcium, riboflavin and zinc. A 1999 German study that examined dental erosion related to raw food diets found that those who subsisted on a raw food diet experienced an increased risk for cavities compared with those who consumed a standard diet.
Researchers believe that a combination of some reduced nutrients and an increased consumption of fruits that contain high levels of sugars and acids, such as citrus, may account for the oral health threat.
Protecting Your Dental Health
As an article about the health effects of vegan diets in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition noted, some vegetarians and vegans must take special care to regularly consume foods fortified with certain nutrients or take appropriate supplements.
If you already adhere to or are considering adopting a vegan, vegetarian or raw food diet, it’s important to plan your meals to ensure proper nutrition. It’s also critical to maintain a good dental hygiene routine—the bottom line is that vegetarian, vegan and raw food diets may offer benefits to overall health, but they still require attention to your oral health.
If you live in the Austin, Texas, area and it’s time for your regular dental exam or you would like to learn more about your cosmetic dentistry options, please contact Dr. Dan Matthews online or call our dental office at 512-452-2273.