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Veganuary – ever thought how it could impact your oral health?
Blog /News

Veganuary – ever thought how it could impact your oral health?

We're now half way through Veganuary, so Pond Square Dental explores what impact going vegan can have on our oral and overall health.

With January marking the start of a new year, many of us are taking the opportunity to kick start new habits, make healthier choices and get back to a more familiar routine following a perhaps over-indulgent festive period.

One of the trends that has grown over recent years on the back of this is Veganuary.

Participants promise to follow a vegan diet throughout the month of January swapping out meat, eggs and dairy for plant-based alternatives.

Its popularity has driven many manufacturers and retailers to launch new food ranges and restaurants to ramp up their vegan offerings.

Often, many have the perception that opting for plant-based foods is a healthier choice that could only improve our wellbeing.

But what impact does going vegan really have on our overall health? And could it impact our oral health too?

The impacts of going vegan

The impacts of going vegan

"What’s important when anybody changes their diet is they plan to ensure their diet is well rounded and they consult a doctor or dentist to avoid any negative impacts on their health."

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As so often is the case, the answer to what impact it can have on our health is – ‘it depends’.

The impact going vegan can have on our health can change depending on the type and variety of foods we consume.

Studies show that an increase in fruit and vegetable consumption has a preventative effect against cancer. And eating more vegetables is also associated with a reduced risk in tooth loss and gum disease.

Fruit on the other hand contains higher levels of sugar. And fruit juices and smoothies also contain a high proportion of ‘free sugars’.

These sugars can help feed bacteria in our mouths, increasing the chance for plaque to grow. And the higher acidity of fruit and smoothies also means there is more opportunity for tooth erosion too.

‘There can be a variety of different reasons somebody might decide to go plant-based,’ Vatche Kassardjian, specialist dentist at Pond Square Dental, says.

‘What’s important when anybody changes their diet is they plan to ensure their diet is well rounded and they consult a doctor or dentist to avoid any negative impacts on their health.’

Overall health

Overall health

PETA lists seven benefits going vegan can have on our overall health:

  1. Vegan foods are rich in nutrients
  2. Going vegan can help reduce the risk of suffering from cancer and other diseases
  3. Vegan food can boost your mood with studies showing vegans score better on depression tests then their meat-eating counterparts
  4. A well planned vegan diet could help achieve a healthy body weight
  5. It could also help prevent type 2 diabetes due to vegans having lower blood sugar levels
  6. Cutting out dairy could benefit your skin
  7. Eating vegan could also reduce the pain of arthritis, with many animal-derived foods linked to inflammation.

‘Despite the benefits, you can be overweight and vegan, and you can also be malnourished too,’ Dr Kassardjian, continues.

‘The key is ensuring you keep a well-balanced diet that contains everything the body needs and avoids everything it doesn’t.

‘Often taking supplements can help ensure vegans get all the nutrients they need but this isn’t essential.’

Oral health changes

Going vegan can also affect our teeth.

Switching to a meat-free diet can alter the oral microbiome – the bacteria found in our mouths.

Research shows our oral microbiome can effect our gut and overall health too.

Green leafy vegetables contain high amounts of minerals that are good for building strong bones and teeth.

And crunchy fruit and veg can actually clean our teeth whilst chewing.

Despite this, some fruits contain high levels of sugar, which help to feed the plaque-forming bacteria in our mouths.

And sugar is often used as an additive to vegan sauces to help enhance the taste.

However, there are certain things we can do to avoid the negative impacts that might come from a meat-free diet.

These include:

  • Avoid snacking – keep to meal times to avoid regular acidic attacks on your teeth
  • If drinking a fruit juice, avoid citrus juices – these are more acidic – and dilute juices when possible
  • Ensure drinks are either sugar free or contain no added sugar and use a straw when drinking outside of meal times
  • Ensure you brush your teeth for two minutes twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste
  • Consult your dentist.

Your dentist can advise whether your diet is negatively impacting your dental health and what you can do to help improve your smile.

Veganuary – ‘a superb opportunity’

Veganuary – ‘a superb opportunity’

‘Veganuary is a superb opportunity to reduce the amount of meat in our diets,’ Vatche concludes.

‘And it is a chance to reassess our current diets and introduce a wider variety of fruit and vegetables – which can only be a good thing.

‘Despite this, it’s important to be aware how any change in diet may impact our body.

‘For that reason I would suggest coming into the practice and having a chat with our dentists and hygienists.

‘The mouth is often a precursor to overall health. So a healthy mouth can often lead to a healthy body.

‘For that reason, our team can ensure you’re in tip top shape going forward.

‘And you never know, the habits we pick up in January might just help shape our direction for the rest of the year too.’

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