The Benefit of Plant-Based Foods to your Oral Health!

By : Dr. Samson Lee

It’s very hard these days not to notice that more and more of your favorite restaurants are offering plant-based options. Pizza, burgers, even taco establishments are all getting in on the plant based craze. Hollywood is getting in on the action with a soon to be released movie produced by some of the biggest names in a film about former lifelong meat eaters, moving towards plant based diets and finding huge improvements in their physical health.

But what about your oral health? What kind of impact does a vegetarian diet have on your oral health? In addition to brushing and flossing, food plays a very key role in keeping your teeth strong and healthy. We often think about the negative impact certain foods can have but there are a number of foods that can improve our oral health.

From an oral health standpoint, foods can have not only an effect on the teeth but also the oral soft tissues including protection against oral cancer. According to the latest review in the journal of the American Dental Association, “Evidence supports a recommendation of a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables as part of a whole-foods, plant-based diet.” The foods found most protective include raw and green/leafy vegetables, tomatoes, citrus, and carrots.

While most people are aware that excess sugars can contribute to tooth decay, we also know that there are certain plant-based foods which can actually not only clean the surface of your teeth, but reduce bacteria as well. The following are just some of the foods that can improve your oral health.

Cucumber
Cucumbers contain dietary fiber which helps to clean teeth and gums. The natural water content found in cucumbers help to enhance the production of saliva.

Parsley
Although parsley has traditionally been used as a garnish, you may want to consider consuming it along with the rest of your meal as parsley is antimicrobial and contains a chemical called eugenol, which not only improves breath odor but also has antiseptic qualities.

Strawberries
Strawberries contain a chemical called malic acid which actually has subtle whitening properties to help break down stains and brighten your smile! Because of the natural sugars and tiny seeds which may get stuck in your teeth, it’s a good idea to give your teeth a quick rinse with water after eating them

Shitake Mushrooms
Shitake mushrooms contain a chemical called lentinan, which helps to not only limit bacterial growth inside the mouth but also prevent gingivitis.

Onions
People often associate onions with being the cause of bad breath, but onions actually help prevent tooth decay. Their natural sulfur chemicals, which give onions their distinctive smell also help fight cavities!

Carrots
Carrots contain keratin which reinforces strength and helps prevent tooth decay. Carrots are also high in fiber and help with saliva production, both of which contribute to a healthier mouth.

In one of the biggest studies to date, consuming citrus fruits more than twice a day, however, was associated with dental erosion 37 times higher compared to those who consumed citrus fruits less often. Consuming apple cider vinegar or sports drinks once a week or more and soft drinks daily will also increase your risk of erosion. The odds of erosion for these habits were ten, four, and four times greater, respectively, than in those who did not engage in that habit.

In order to enjoy the benefits of healthy foods like citrus while at the same time minimizing the risks of dental erosion, the most important thing to remember is not to brush right after we eat sour fruit. We should always wait at least 30 minutes. Acid softens our enamel and if we brush right after consuming these acidic foods we can actually inadvertently damage our teeth in the process.