Too much of “this,” not enough of “that.” Sounds like the diagnosis of a less than stellar nutritional plan, doesn’t it? It’s also the diagnosis you might get from your dentist and doctor if your diet begins to wreak havoc with your teeth. If you follow a restrictive diet of any sort – for example, if you consider yourself vegan, or are a strict follower of Atkins or Paleo, you’re going to be lacking certain nutrients your teeth need to remain healthy. We’ll take a look at why this happens …
There are two main reasons why strict adherents to restrictive diets end up with oral health concerns. First is the lack of re-mineralization that occurs with diets that avoid dairy and/or meat, and the other is an increased intake of acid when diets revolve mainly, or exclusively upon vegetables (and particularly, as in the case of fruitarians), fruit.
- Remineralization: When we think of strong bones and teeth, we often think of calcium. But there’s another mineral most of us never even think about, that serves an equally important role: phosphates. Phosphates exists (among other places) in our saliva – and, it’s one of the most prevalent minerals in the human body! After eating, phosphate ions and calcium ions work to naturally repair teeth through a process known as remineralization – a process whereby minerals lost to acidity are replaced – effectively “repairing” a tooth.Trouble arises, however, when we abstain from foods that naturally aid in this remineralization process. Nuts, green leafy vegetables (without too much focus on spinach, which isn’t good for your teeth), and sea vegetables can help, but meat, fish and dairy are the biggest dietary contributors to remineralization. If you’re a vegan, or a paleo dieter, you can see how this can interfere with a process necessary to maintaining a healthy mouth.
- Increased Acid: In the dieting world, white carbohydrates (like potatoes) and grains are the target of much scorn. In place of these demonized foodstuffs, fruit usually fills the void. It’s natural, fits the bill for paleo fans and all sorts of veggie lovers. The problem is, with this increased consumption of fruit comes a greater exposure to fruit acid. And our teeth hate acid.And when you combine too much fruit with not enough remineralizing foods, your teeth are likely to run into trouble; vegans being particularly at risk.
There are a multitude of opinions as to what is the “best” diet, and the best answer to that question is one only you can make. However, when it comes to your teeth, reducing your exposure to highly acidic foods and beverages, and regular consumption of remineralizing foods will always be a good choice.