We live in a world surrounded by processed convenience food. Of course, staying away from sugary foods and drinks is touted to be the best form of action to help keep your child’s teeth cavity free. However, whether you are a vegetarian or vegan family, you may be lacking specific vitamins and minerals that your child needs for optimal dental health.
According to the Academy of General Dentistry, some vegetarians and most vegans are at an increased risk for vitamins B2 and 12, calcium, and vitamin D deficiency. Children and teens who put themselves on vegetarian or vegan diets place themselves at greater risk for deficiencies due to their developing bones and teeth. Adults too may be at risk for gum disease when following a vegetarian diet for a long period of time.
If your family is eating mostly plant-based foods. You should be aware of the acidity levels of certain foods in order to help prevent the demineralization of your child’s teeth. Foods that fall below the pH level of 7 are considered to be acidic. Colgate offers a list of acidic foods that should be limited or paired with alkaline foods (pH above 7). Eating a more alkaline food like cheese (regular or vegan) after consuming fruit raises the pH level in your mouth and increases saliva production. Therefore, cheese helps neutralize the acidity and protects the enamel of your teeth. Colgate also suggests rinsing your mouth with water after eating fruit and waiting 30 minutes before brushing to help keep the enamel intact.
An Academy of General Dentistry study also found that calcium in your saliva helps strengthen and aid in the remineralization of tooth enamel. Calcium supports healthy bones, teeth, and gums. It’s also essential for blood clotting and the proper function of your heart, nerves, and muscles. Vegans especially should be supplementing with leafy greens, beans, as well as fortified soy and nut milks. Below are a few examples of high calcium plant-based foods.
High Calcium Legumes:
High Calcium Vegetables:
Click here for calcium recommendations.
Vitamin D is necessary for the absorption of calcium and phosphorous for healthy development of your bones and teeth. Exposure to the sun, diet, and taking supplements are your three options to getting adequate vitamin D. The combination of diet and supplements are typically the most effective ways to meet the requirements of this essential nutrient. For males and females, 600 IU (International Units) are recommended up until age 70. Those older than 70 years are encouraged to increase their vitamin D to 800 IU’s per day. Doctors will prescribe a higher dose for those that are deficient.
Sources of Vitamin D include: salmon, mackerel, egg yolks, liver and fortified dairy products.
If you’re a parent and follow a predominately plant-based diet, are you providing your child with enough nutrition for their teeth? Consulting with your dentist and a registered dietitian nutritionist will help guide you and your child to a healthy balance of plant-based foods for your family’s dental health.