Health issues often lead people to a vegetarian diet, with concerns over fat and cholesterol motivating people to consume no animal products. Other reasons also compel people to follow the vegetarian diet. While these type diets can lead to a healthier life, they can also impact our teeth and oral health. Eliminating certain foods can also eliminate certain nutrients critical to good oral health.
Three nutrients are critical to good oral health and prevention of teeth loss. Those are calcium, Vitamin D, riboflavin, Vitamin B12, and complex proteins. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, “An adult on a vegetarian diet for a prolonged period can be at increased risk for periodontal (gum) disease from a lack of vitamin D and calcium,” says Dr. Ludwig Leibsohn, DDS and spokesperson for the academy.
One of the best ways to get Vitamin D is from the ultraviolet-B rays in sunlight, with twice a week exposure for 5 to 30 minutes doing the trick. But it also helps to take a Vitamin D supplement, especially during those winter months when exposure to the sun can be limited.
Calcium is another crucial nutrient for not only healthy teeth, but bones as well. There are several foods that can help provide the right amount of calcium to meet the needs of vegetarians and vegans. According to the Vegetarian Resource Group, black strap molasses and collard greens top the list of great sources of calcium, followed by several other foods.
For Vitamin B12, the source is a little different since no plant or animal actually makes the vitamin. Bacteria is the primary source of B12, with animals ingesting it from plants contaminated by microorganisms. So the best source for B12 is fortified foods and supplements, such as yeast or soy milk. Other sources include fortified energy bars and supplement tablets.
The best way to find out the best sources of foods is to consult your dentist or a nutritionist. They can advise you on healthy eating and help you stick to a vegetarian or vegan diet. The important thing is to maintain a good balance of nutrients your body needs to continue to grow strong and healthy.
So keep staying healthy and enjoy your life. Just remember that balance is the key to everything in life, including your oral health.