Vegetarian diet good but not great for teeth

Good for gums. So why do vegetarians lose their teeth?
Good for gums. So why do vegetarians lose their teeth?

A new German study has concluded that vegetarians have healthier gums but more tooth decay than people with other diets.

Researchers at the Department of Conservative Dentistry, Periodontology and Preventive Dentistry at the Hannover Medical School examined 100 vegetarians and 100 non-vegetarians. Results showed vegetarians had significantly lower probing pocket depths, bleeding on probing, periodontal screening index, a better hygiene index and less mobile teeth. Dental examinations revealed significantly less missing teeth but also more decayed and eroded teeth in vegetarians. Furthermore, vegetarians had a higher level of education but visited dentists significantly less frequently.

The authors suggested that vegetarians may practice an overall healthier lifestyle. That would explain why they had healthier gums, better oral hygiene and fewer missing teeth. They did not suggest reasons that vegetarians had more decayed teeth, more erosion or fewer dental visits.

Few other studies have focused on vegetarians’ dental health. One small study in 1985 found that vegetarians had more tooth erosion than people who ate meat. The study did not offer an explanation. A 2011 study did not find such a difference.

A diet that is rich in vitamins, minerals, and fresh fruit and vegetables has been proven to help prevent periodontal disease. The two most common deficiencies among long-term vegetarians are vitamin D and calcium, which can cause teeth to soften.

Commenting on the study results on the British Dental Health Foundation website, Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter said: “We know a vegetarian’s diet can benefit their oral health. Fresh fruit and vegetables contain anti-oxidants, which have been proven to help prevent gum disease and reduce the risk of mouth cancer. However, they may be at higher risk of certain vitamin deficiencies that could affect oral health.”

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