Being vegan or raw can be a wonderful and healthy lifestyle choice, and while it seems like eating all those veggies and fruits would be beneficial for all parts of you body, some raw foodists tell me that they actually see a decline in their dental health and wonder why. Here are some common questions they ask and tips I offer them:
“After I eat something like pineapple and dates, I feel like I want to brush. Is that the right thing to do?”
You may have the urge after eating something like dates or pineapple that is really acidic to want to brush, but brushing at that time is actually counterproductive.
If you brush right after, your saliva hasn’t formed the remineralizing properties yet, and you are therefore causing enamel erosion. Also the type of brush you use and way you brush is important. Use a soft bristled brush, and I always always recommend an electronic toothbrush so that you have more control over how hard you brush rather than someone pressing way too hard into their gums and teeth and causing gum recession and tooth abrasion.
Instead, rinse your mouth with water and an enemal mouthwash at that time. Neem has been used in india for oral health for centuries. It is amazing for your teeth. It can prevent gum disease and cavities, eliminates cavity causing bacteria, has anti-inflammatory properties and freshens breath. There are many toothpastes too that contain neem that are great to use when you regularly brush in the morning and evening.
Also, another tip-always be sure to incorporate flossing in your daily oral care routine!
“Since I don’t drink cow’s or animal milk, is the calcium I get from almond milk enough?”
Almonds are a wonderful calcium source and while everyone talks about calcium in their body for strong healthy bones and teeth, I tell my patients that it’s most beneficial in co existence with fat soluble vitamins D, A and K that make it “work”. Click here to read about other dairy-free sources of Calcium for you and your family. While calcium is important for your body, here are some other vitamins that play a key role in your smile’s health.
Vitamin K: I personally am vegetarian and I eat farm raised organic eggs from our farmers market as well as hard raw cheese, so I get my vitamin K through that but also from dark leafy greens such as cabbage, kale, spinach and broccoli.
Vitamin D: Obviously the sunshine! Vitamin D is required for intestinal absorption of calcium. It influences calcium absorption and ensures continuous mineralization of bones and teeth by supporting the blood calcium levels. There are two forms of Vitamin D: Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) and vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol). The ingested form of vitamin D is is found in animal products like eggs and milk and for meat eaters, very high in fish oils. For vegans, it is also found in some mushrooms. A liquid Vitamin D supplement is something you may want to consider if you’re living in a cooler climate with less sun, as many of us are deficient.
Vitamin A: It is really easy for us vegetarians and vegans, because its in so many fruits and veggies. Vitamin A itself (retinol) occurs preformed only in foods of animal origin and is found in butter, cheese, milk, yogurt. Beta-carotene is found in plant foods and can be converted to retinol by the body. Carrots, squash, pumpkin, sweet potato, spinach, peppers, watercress, dried apricots, mango and margarine are sources of beta-carotene which also unlike Retinol has anti-oxidative properties.
“I snack all day, is this okay for my teeth?”
Vegans/vegetarians, often snack a lot. That is totally fine for metabolism, but not if you are snacking non stop all day. That never gives your salivary glands, teeth, jaw a rest! Be careful with how much you snack. Be sure to give your jaw a rest between snacks and meals.
And if you are going to snack on dried fruits, again be sure to rinse and floss after to get out any of that sticky stuff to avoid it becoming a haven for caries bacteria.
“I have noticed a decline in my dental health, but I am eating only fruits and vegetables. I thought that would be better!”
In regards to dental decline with fresh fruits and veggies, it’s not about the food itself. Refined sugars and flours are obviously much worse for your teeth than healthy fruits and vegetables. It’s about the balance of vitamins and nutrients for overall systemic health including dental in whatever diet you choose.
I have noticed a lot with high school vegan kids that were my patients, that their diet is just not balanced. They think that they are eating really well, and yes much better than fast food and processed foods that many other kids eat, but a lot of the time when I go through what they eat everyday at their check ups, they are lacking in key essential vitamins and minerals, and that is probably very true for vegan and meat-eating adults, too. If anything, it is important to talk to a nutritionist who can help make a balanced daily meal plan for you.
“Are greens like spinach okay for your teeth? Why do my teeth feel chalky afterwards?”
Greens like kale and spinach are awesome for dental health, just need to be paired with the right things. For better absorption, I recommend to pair it with something that is a good fat source like avocado.
The reason you get the chalky feeling on your teeth with spinach is the high quantities of oxalic acids, (not because of the high iron content). The oxalate crystals leak out as you chew, and also, when you cook spinach and these crystals coat the teeth. Pair spinach with lemon to improve iron absorption and also with fruits high in vitamin C, like strawberries.
Remember, nothing in extremes is ever healthy, so eating well balanced meals is being true to your dosha and overall health as we say in Ayurveda. Speaking of Ayurveda, click this link and learn how to naturally whiten your teeth and heal cavities through Oil Pulling.
Hope this helps!
-Dr. Puja Shah, DMD