Trendy diets and their impact on oral health

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With patients trying a new diet this year, Surina Sehgal explores what the possible implications are to their oral health.

Most people are aware sugar is bad for your teeth. But a lot of patients aren’t aware that certain types of diets they chose – maybe to lose weight or to feel healthier – can have a negative impact on their oral health.

In this article I will review a few trendy diets and what effect they could have on your oral health.

Keto diet (the low carb diet)

This diet is becoming increasingly popular for weight loss.

It consists of eating food groups high in fat, low carbohydrates and a moderate protein intake. People will often consume foods such as meat, eggs, fish, nuts, butter, oils and cheeses.

With this particular diet, the body breaks down fat into ketones. This becomes the principle source of energy (rather than carbohydrates).

The keto diet may reduce intake of important minerals such as vitamin A, C, K. Vitamin C deficiency could lead to poor wound healing, poor periodontal health or tooth loss.

‘Keto breath’ is a very common problem. It occurs, as your body is burning fat for energy. Fat cells are converted into ketones. One of these ketones is called acetone, which is released in urine and lungs causing that distinctive ‘ketosis’ smell. I compare it to an overly sweet, fruity scent.

Keto diets are a good short-term option for healthy individuals. However, patients should always check with their doctors to ensure their bodies can handle going into ketosis.

Teeth may not suffer any damage, but the breath might.

Vegan diet

Adopting a plant-based diet offers numerous benefits. A vegan diet is very beneficial and extremely nutritious if eating a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, pulses.

However for some people, adopting this diet is difficult. Those turning vegan typically remove dairy and protein sources from their diet.

Those who practise veganism may run into some dental problems as a result of cutting out certain food groups and make unhealthy food choices such as refined sugary products and processed foods.

Some of the essential vitamins and minerals, which are key to oral health, are calcium, phosphorous, vitamin B12, vitamin D and iron. It is tricky incorporating these into a vegan-friendly diet.

But there are vegan alternatives!

Calcium

A deficiency in calcium could result in higher risk of gum disease and tooth decay.

Some vegan-friendly options are soya milk, almond milk, tofu, beans, leafy greens such as spinach and kale.

Phosphorous

This is an essential mineral as it supports calcium. Plant-based alternatives are soy beans, nuts, nut butters, grains, lentil and pumpkin seeds.

Vitamin B12

This vitamin is mainly found in non-vegan foods. It is essential to our overall health. Some vegan sources include spinach, almonds, bagels and pastas.

Iron

A deficiency of iron could present orally as inflammation/mouth sores. It is common for a plant-based diet to be low in iron but it is a vital vitamin for overall health.

Some plant-based sources are dark leafy greens, peas, nuts seeds and dried fruits.

Vitamin D

This is essential to help our body absorb calcium and is key for strengthening bones and teeth. The body produces vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. However, we should eat foods that are rich in this vitamin.

There are vegan food options fortified with vitamin D, such as fortified tofu, soya/almond milk and plant-based supplements.

When adopting such a diet, it is important to consult a doctor, dentist, nutritionist who can help ensure sufficient nutrition for the body.

Vegans should be extra careful about keeping up good oral hygiene and staying away from foods that are sugary or acidic.

Intermittent fasting

This is a popular diet where you go between periods of eating and fasting. Some claim it helps them to lose weight by increasing metabolism.

Intermittent fasting can have a positive impact on oral health. Many limit the amount of sugars in their mouths and the time they spend in there. This limits the bacteria that causes plaque, reducing risk of gum disease or tooth decay.

However it is important to mention this diet still requires patients to ensure the foods they eat are nutritious and balanced. And to stay away from processed and sugary foods.

Every diet has a significant impact on overall health, and, in turn oral health too.

Juice cleanse diet

A juice cleanse involves only drinking fruit and vegetable juices, to lose weight very quickly.

Unfortunately, when it comes to oral health, juice cleanses could do more harm that good. While fruits are very nutritionally beneficial, they contain a high level of natural sugars. On regular consumption of juices, the sugar can build up and damage teeth.

Juice cleanses often contain regular drinks every few hours, rather than having three set meals a day.

In terms of oral health, its not the amount of sugar consumed that puts us at risk of dental decay, it’s the length of time that the surface of the teeth are exposed to free sugars.

So in terms of protecting their dental health, recommend patients limit the frequency of consumption of sugary foods and drinks as this puts them at risk of dental decay or dental erosion.

If patients want to reduce the dental impact of a juice cleanse, then I would suggest:

  • Using a straw to decrease contact between the juice and teeth
  • Drinking water after juice
  • Waiting one hour after drinking juice to brush teeth.

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