What these two campaigns mean for the health of your mouth.
If you even just flick through the news, whether in papers or on the internet, you can’t help but have noticed that January seems to be a popular month for campaigns that can be life changing.
Dry January, a campaign to encourage people to go a month without alcohol, has been going for a few years now, whilst the furore surrounding Piers Morgan and Gregg’s now infamous vegan ‘sausage’ roll means that the campaign to encourage people to go vegan for a month, Veganuary, has received a significant boost in publicity.
Both of these campaigns may offer benefits to our health as a whole. Alcohol is widely linked with a number of health problems, and even if you don’t wish to become entirely vegan, most experts agree that increasing our intake of non animal based foods is probably very beneficial for us.
Few articles on these current campaigns though, have focussed on the effect that these campaigns can have on our oral health. At the Confidental Clinic in Clapham, we thought that we would address just that.
Few would dispute that drinking to excess is bad for our health in many ways. In addition to the direct effect that it can have on organs such as the liver, alcohol is a prime cause of many accidents and assaults, as anyone who has visited an Accident and Emergency department on a Saturday night can probably attest.
Alcohol can also play a harmful role in our oral health in a number of other ways too.
Sugar content – Most alcoholic drinks contain sugar and some of the newer generation of drinks, often aimed at younger people, can contain very high quantities indeed. Even traditional beers such as a pint of bitter contain sugar though. Regular consumption means that we expose our teeth to more sugar than we would if we didn’t drink.
Dry mouth – Drinking alcohol often causes us to wake up with a dry mouth in the morning. This dehydration means that our mouths have provided an ideal place for bacteria to thrive in our mouth as we sleep. These bacteria are a significant contributor to both tooth decay and gum disease, both of which may lead to eventual tooth loss.
Accidents – as mentioned earlier, drinking too much alcohol may well lead to a stumble, fall or collision that damages our teeth. Whilst this can happen at any time, the effect of alcohol makes this more likely. In many cases, this will lead to the need to see an emergency dentist at our Clapham practice. Please call us as soon as you can and we will endeavour to see you the same day wherever possible.
Leaving aside any arguments about the nutritional value of a Gregg’s vegan pasty, most would agree that, even if not for them, a vegan diet would seem to be a healthy one. An increase in the amount of low fat vegetables, nuts and pulses, combined with spices etc, should be able to produce both interesting and healthy food. It is worth remembering though, that this is an ‘ideal’ vegan diet and it is also perfectly possible to be a vegan and subsist on foods like chips, cake and puddings too. So, being a vegan may not always be good for your teeth if you are not careful.
This is not the only way that veganism can potentially be harmful for your teeth and gums though. There are a number of factors which may also contribute.
Calcium intake – Most omnivores (who eat all categories of foodstuffs) usually get a sufficient intake of this important mineral which builds teeth and bones. This often comes from dairy products which vegans eschew. This is not to say that vegans can’t get sufficient calcium. It is also present in foods such as nuts and seeds. The way that the body utilises minerals found in this type of food may be different though and you may need to use certain food combinations to ensure sufficient intake. If you are considering a vegan diet, do read the information available on reliable sources such as the Vegan Society (1)
Tooth decay and cavities – As we said earlier, some vegans eat an awful lot of sweet foods. Some may argue that this is to make up for blander savoury foods, though this is a matter of taste of course. Whether a meat eater or vegan though, foods loaded with sugars, whether ‘healthy’ sugars or not, will almost certainly mean that cavities are more likely. Vegans who opt for the healthier route to the diet are also likely to eat more fruit. Aside from the sugar content, many are also high in acids which can damage the protective enamel on our teeth.
Grazing – Some vegans may argue that they don’t do this, but others find, especially when new to the diet, that they are hungry before their next meal and are likely to eat snacks between meals, at least until their bodies have time to adjust to their new diet. Even some so-called ‘healthy’ snacks though mean that our teeth are continually exposed to sugars and acids, and are not allowed time to sufficiently remineralise before the next meal. This again, is harmful to our tooth enamel.
If you are considering a vegan diet, whether as part of the Veganuary campaign or not, do make sure to read up on the dietary aspect of it from a reliable source. Even eating the right foods though does not necessarily mean that you will avoid dental problems. Other factors, such as genetics, means that some of us are just more vulnerable to decay than others.
Vegan or not, you need to see your dentist every six months or so for a check up, and also make sure that you clean your teeth correctly in between those visits. Make sure to use a toothpaste that contains fluoride and also add flossing to your daily routine, if you do not already do so.
We hope that you found this blog useful, and, if you need any advice on your dental care, we are happy to help. Please make an appointment for a consultation with one of the dentists at the Confidental Clinic by calling us on 020 7801 9060.