From the time a baby’s teeth start to grow in, parents are told by the media and food industry that the calcium and vitamin D in milk supports good oral health. “Got milk?” ads appear in virtually every publication, from Parenting to Sports Illustrated and even Cosmopolitan. Society is constantly told to drink milk and eat dairy to have strong teeth and bones. But what about those who choose to follow a vegan or raw vegan diet? Do they just accept the fact that in order for their bodies to be extremely healthy, they have to sacrifice their oral health?
Fortunately, there are plenty of plant-based foods that offer the same benefits to oral health as milk and dairy. First and foremost, it is extremely important for everyone, not just vegans, to brush and floss his or her teeth twice a day, and floss after every snack or meal. Brushing and flossing regularly is the first step to good oral health. It’s also important to find a toothpaste (or a toothsoap) that doesn’t contain glycerin, which is like sugar coating the teeth.
A diet consisting mainly of fruits and vegetables is great for physical, mental and emotional health. It is important for vegans to be aware of the acidity of the fruits and vegetables they are eating in order to maintain a healthy mouth. After eating acidic foods like dates, pineapple, orange, grapefruit, lemons and limes, saliva needs time to remineralize the enamel. Therefore, do not brush or floss immediately after eating acidic foods. Severe enamel erosion can occur if one brushes their teeth immediately after. For vegans, who are known to graze all day long instead of eating three square meals, it is important to give the mouth time in between snacks and meals to remineralize and clean itself.
Calcium and Vitamin D are important nutrients for oral health, and they are not only found in milk and dairy. Almonds, figs, oranges, and green leafy vegetables are a great calcium source, and vitamin D can be absorbed from getting some sun or eating mushrooms. Vitamins K and A are also essential to good oral health, and these nutrients can be found in dark leafy greens – such as cabbage, kale, spinach and broccoli – and carrots, squash, pumpkin, sweet potato, peppers, watercress, apricots and mango all contain vitamin A.
Fruits and vegetables with a high pH are better for oral health than those with a lower pH. High pH fruits and veggies include: