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Biting Into a New Regime

The effects of popular diets on oral health

By Nicholas S. Baumann, DDS

Our diets play a vital role in our overall health, but also affect our oral health. These days, many are turning to a variety of specialty diets to ensure that they are eating foods which supply the vitamins and minerals specific to their individual health. Some of these diets may be very familiar like keto, Adkins, low fat, and juice diets while others are less so. While nutritional changes can help people shed those unwanted pounds, they can also impact oral health positively and sometimes deleteriously, thus these effects must be taken into account when starting a new diet.

Low fat diets are one of the most popular diets we see today. While studies show they are helpful in losing weight, we need to consider their effect on the oral cavity. These diets can restrict healthy animal fats, which can inhibit the body’s ability to absorb certain fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, and K which are very important to gum and teeth health; lack of them can lead to negative effects on the oral cavity. Vitamin C, found in many fruits, and vitamin B, found in leafy greens, are two of the most important vitamins for a healthy mouth. As well, crisp veggies and fruits can help clean plaque off teeth and freshen breath. All of these should be in abundance in any good diet.

Low carb diets such as Adkins and keto have also become prominent in the last few years. Provided that necessary fatty acids, vitamins and fiber are consumed, these diets can have a beneficial effect on the oral cavity. Studies have shown that they can lead to up to 50 percent less inflammation in the mouth.¹ One consideration, particularly with the keto diet, which involves high fat intake along with low carb intake, is that the body will produce more ketones. These will generally produce bad breath, something to be aware of for anyone on the diet.

Juice diets are another popular way to rid the body of toxins or shed some weight. One thing to consider is that these juices are usually high in sugars and acids, which can wear away tooth enamel, leading to tooth decay. Similarly, the labels on protein shakes which are widely consumed should be checked because many of these also contain high amounts of sugar.

Vegan diets are growing in popularity in the U.S. Anyone on these diets needs to be mindful as they can lack enough calcium from natural sources. For those that have gum disease, a lack of calcium can make the condition worse. Therefore, vegans should take care to ensure intake of adequate amounts of calcium, either through foods or a supplement. For those on a vegetarian (but not vegan) diet, foods rich in lactic acid, such as yogurt and sour cream have shown to be beneficial in supporting gum health as well as being a great source of calcium. These foods would be limited on a vegan diet.

In summary, many diets restrict one or more important groups of foods. Good fats and vitamins are vital to oral health and need to be supplemented on many of these diets. If care is taken to make sure all necessary vitamins and minerals are being consumed, many of these diets can help us to be healthier, to lose weight, and to have good oral health.

Dr. Nick is with Palm Desert Smiles and can be reached at (760) 568.3602.

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