A vegan or vegetarian diet is good for your health. However, if you’re not careful, it could cause your bones, including your teeth, to get weaker.
A study published by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that vegetarians are much more likely to suffer from tooth decay, more acidic salivary (spit) pH levels, and lower stimulated saliva flow than non-vegetarians.
This study confirmed earlier research by Dr. Weston A. Price published in his book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. After a 10-year examination of isolated societies that were untouched by “the displacing foods of modern commerce,” he found that indigenous vegetarian cultures suffered tooth decay at a higher rate than omnivore or almost completely carnivore cultures.
Another study titled “Oral Implications of the Vegan Diet” assessed 15 subjects who had been on a vegan diet for at least 18 months and compared their oral health with 15 subjects who were on omnivorous diets. The results showed there was a greater incidence of demineralization in the teeth of the vegan group as compared to the omnivores. Saliva pH was also at a more preferable level among the omnivores.
Unfortunately, these early studies suggest vegans are much more likely to have poorer dental health than non-vegans.
But, why is that? What’s it that’s missing from vegan and vegetarian diets that is leading to this tooth decay?
The answer: not getting enough vitamin D and calcium.
Vegan Sources of Vitamin D
Most Americans get vitamin D from the sun, fortified milk, and fortified margarine. Food sources for vitamin D include fatty fish (cod liver oil, mackerel, salmon, sardines), eggs (if the chickens have been fed vitamin D), and mushrooms (if treated with UV rays). The vegan diet contains precious little of these.
For vegans looking for vitamin D from food, you’re probably going to need supplements, at least during the fall and winter. Check the labels carefully, as some of the ingredients in the supplements may be derived from animals: Vitamin D2 and vitamin D3 from lichen are vegan-friendly.
Vegan Sources of Calcium
Dairy and fish are great ways to get calcium. If you’re not vegan. So what are your options if you are vegan?
Here’s a list of high-calcium vegan foods:
- Calcium-fortified soy or nut milks
- Soybeans and soy nuts
- Bok choy
- Collard greens
- Chinese cabbage
- Mustard greens
Article by Bryana Allen, Delta Dental of Washington