Supporting plant-based patientsFeatured Products Promotional Features
Posted by: The Probe 13th September 2021
Veganism is certainly increasing in popularity. This is illustrated by more than 582,000 people worldwide registering to ‘try vegan’ as part of the annual 2021 Veganuary campaign, [i] compared to 400,000 in 2020, [ii]and the trend shows no sign of slowing down. A recent survey [iii] conducted by the Vegan Society found that 1 in 5 people in the UK had cut down on their meat consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic, and 15% had reduced their dairy/egg intake over the lockdown period.
With an increasing proportion of your patient base identifying as vegan, it can be beneficial for dental professionals to remind patients of the implications of a plant-based diet on oral health, while providing advice to support them in maintaining a good level of dental hygiene.
Implications for oral health
While the British Dietetic Association states that well-planned plant-based diets can support healthy living at every age and life-stage, [iv] there is also research to suggest that vegans should consider some additional implications for their dental hygiene, to preserve and protect their overall long-term health.
Research suggests that vegan diets tend to be lower in vitamin D. [v] A lack of vitamin D can be a risk factor for oral health problems, such as an increase in the incidence of periodontal diseases [vi] and gingival inflammation. [vii] Similarly, vitamin D supplementation, when combined with calcium, has been shown to reduce tooth loss. vii With this in mind, it can be useful to recommended that, where available, patients regularly consume vitamin D–fortified foods v such as breakfast cereals, fat spreads, and unsweetened soya drinks. [viii]
Veganism might also make getting sufficient levels of vitamin B12 a challenge, which can be linked to a decrease in periodontal health [ix] and an increased tooth loss rate. vii To combat this, dental professionals can advise patients to increase their intake of foods fortified with B12 – such as some breakfast cereals, plant milks, and soy products – to two or three times a day or a daily amount of at least three micrograms (mcg or µg). Alternatively, recommend taking B12 supplements that equate to a daily amount of at least 10 micrograms, or a weekly amount providing at least 2000 micrograms. [x]
Sugars and carbohydrates
Adopting a plant-based diet has been linked to an increased consumption of carbohydrates when compared to an omnivorous diet viii and, as we know, sugar and carbohydrates both increase the risk for dental caries and gingival bleeding. vii While the NHS recommend that a 30g portion of dried fruit counts as 1 of your 5-a-day, viii the dental team can advise patients to consume it alongside a main meal, rather than as a snack between meals, to reduce the impact of sugar on teeth.
Animal milk alternatives, such as soy, almond, and oat milk, are increasingly available across all the major supermarkets. However, many are sweetened with added sugar that can lead to the oral health issues linked to sugars and carbohydrates (as already mentioned). Furthermore, if these milks are not specially fortified with calcium, patients could be missing out on its protective factors that prevent the demineralisation of enamel. [xi]It would therefore be beneficial to advise patients to look out for non-sweetened and calcium-fortified milk alternatives to help limit the potential for any detrimental impact on their dental health.
Plant-based products you can trust
There are highly effective plant-based dental products on the market that dental professionals can recommend to further support their vegan patients in the pursuit of a healthy mouth. The BE YOU toothpaste range from Curaprox – the Swiss oral health specialist – offers a gentle whitening formula, packed full of natural ingredients and vegan vibes. It is available in a range of six funky and fresh flavours, so your patients can bring the joy back to brushing while taking care of their enamel and gingiva at the same time.
Supporting your plant-based patients
It should be noted that while a vegan diet does present an increased risk of some oral health conditions, the NHS recognises that one can get most of the nutrients required from eating a varied and balanced vegan diet.viii Additionally, research suggests that frequently consuming significant quantities of sugary foods and carbonated drinks has a greater effect on oral health than the presence or absence of meat in the diet. viii
The tightly woven relationship between nutrition and health places dental professionals in an important position to both support and advise patients in regards to their dietary choices. By working alongside patients, communicating the challenges and solutions, and recommending the right products, those following a vegan diet can enjoy a fantastic level of oral health.
[i] Veganuary.com. Veganuary 2021 Campaign in review. Available at: https://veganuary.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Veganuary-2021-Campaign-in-Review.pdf [Last accessed 15.06.2021]
[ii] Veganuary.com. Veganuary 2020 Campaign in review. Available at: https://veganuary.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Veganuary-EndOfCampaignReport.pdf [Last accessed 15.06.2021]
[iii] The Vegan Society. ‘1 in 5 Brits cut down on meat consumption during COVID-19 pandemic’. Available at: https://www.vegansociety.com/whats-new/news/1-5-brits-cut-down-meat-consumption-during-covid-19-pandemic [Last accessed 15.06.2021]
[iv] British Dietetic Association. Vegetarian, vegan and plant-based diet: Food Fact Sheet. Available at: https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/vegetarian-vegan-plant-based-diet.html [Last accessed 15.06.2021]
[v] Winston J Craig, Health effects of vegan diets, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 89, Issue 5, May 2009, Pages 1627S–1633S. Available at: https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/89/5/1627S/4596952 [Last accessed 15.06.2021]
[vi] Anne Marie Uwitonze, Julienne Murererehe, Marie Claire Ineza, Eliane Ingabire Harelimana, Usiel Nsabimana, Peace Uwambaye, Agnes Gatarayiha, Afrozul Haq, Mohammed S. Razzaque, Effects of vitamin D status on oral health, The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Volume 175, 2018, Pages 190-194, ISSN 0960-0760. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0960076017300304?via%3Dihub [Last accessed 15.06.2021]
[vii] Hujoel PP, Lingstrom P. Nutrition, dental caries and periodontal disease: a narrative review. J Clin Periodontol 2017; 44 (Suppl. 18): S79–S84. doi: 10.1111/jcpe.12672. Available at: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/jcpe.12672 [Last accessed 15.06.2021]
[viii] NHS.uk. The vegan diet. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/the-vegan-diet/ [Last accessed 15.06.2021]
[ix] The Journal of the British Association of Dental Nurses. Veganism and oral health. Available at: https://bdnj.co.uk/2020/02/18/veganism-and-oral-health/#_edn4 [Last accessed 15.06.2021]
[x] The Vegan Society. What Every Vegan Should Know About Vitamin B12. Available at: https://www.vegansociety.com/resources/nutrition-and-health/nutrients/vitamin-b12/what-every-vegan-should-know-about-vitamin-b12[Last accessed 15.06.2021]
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