By now, most people are aware of the benefits to a vegetarian diet, especially in the realm of heart and circulatory health. But recent research from the Department of Conservative Dentistry, Periodontology and Preventive Dentistry at the Hannover Medical School in Germany has revealed that vegetarians show less inflammation and periodontal (gum disease) damage as compared to meat eaters.
The researchers found that among the vegetarians there was reduced pocket depth around the teeth, less bleeding of the gums when brushed or flossed, less redness, swelling and fewer mobile (loose) teeth. Interestingly, vegetarians in the test group had more decayed and eroded teeth even with their healthier gums! It was predictably revealed that the vegetarian group in the study visited the dentist much less frequently and was inclined not to use fluoridated toothpaste to the same degree as their non-vegan counterparts. Many vegetarians do not use a commercial fluoridated toothpaste at all, since most toothpaste includes glycerin which can be derived from beef tallow. Some toothpaste manufactures use a combination of both synthetic and animal sources, but only if it meets or exceeds the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) quality standards.
Mom was right about the vegetables
So, your mom (or in my case, my dad!) was right about making you sit at the dinner table until you eat all your veggies. In addition, it seems that recent studies from researchers in Italy and Switzerland published in the Annals of Oncology, have found that people who eat green vegetables like broccoli, bok choy, cabbage and cauliflower at least once a week will cut their risk for developing oral cancers by 17 percent as opposed to individuals who did not eat cruciferous vegetables at all. This is significant, since at the present time oral cancer is one of the very few cancers that are actually increasing in frequency.
Overall, vegetarians may have a lower risk of oral cancer and gum disease, but how can vegetarians further lower their dental decay risk? One way is to brush after every meal, use some kind of fluoride dentifrice daily, be sure to floss and see your dentist/hygienist at least twice a year, and reduce the frequency and amount of sweets daily. Make sure every dental or health professional, from your dentist to your family physician, is aware of your decision to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle. While vegetarian diets do vary, it’s not uncommon to see vegetarians with deficiencies in vitamin B12, riboflavin, vitamin D, calcium and proteins. A subgroup of vegetarians called “vegans” also refrain from milk or milk products since they are derived from animals, but healthy alternatives do exist, like soy milk with added calcium to protect bone health and provide protection from tooth decay.
At Dr. Mark Langberg’s Cosmetic and General Dentistry, we can help advise you on the best nutrition for optimal dental health. We suggest only the best dental devices, toothpaste and oral health regimen to use depending upon your own unique and individual set of health circumstances. Remember that another healthy option is to greatly reduce the amount and frequency of meat intake (especially red meat) in your diet and fill the void with lots more of organically grown fruits and vegetables. It’s never too late to improve your health with a healthy diet and begin receiving the best dental care available!
That’s all for now,
Mark W Langberg, DDS, MAGD