The study1 into vegetarian and non-vegetarian eating habits also revealed that vegetarians are less likely to suffer from bleeding gums, tooth loss and potential life-threatening conditions. But vegetarians suffered from more tooth decay and were less likely to visit their dentist, despite knowing the benefits of doing so.
The two most common deficiencies among long-term vegetarians are vitamin D and calcium, which can cause teeth to soften, making them more vulnerable to tooth decay.
Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, said: ‘We know a vegetarian's diet can benefit their oral health. Fresh fruit and vegetables contain anti-oxidants, which have been proven to help prevent gum disease and reduce the risk of mouth cancer. However, they may be at higher risk of certain vitamin deficiencies that could affect oral health.
‘For this reason, it is important to mention if you have vegetarian or vegan lifestyle at your next check-up. A daily supplement with all the necessary vitamins and minerals is also a good idea, especially for younger vegetarians as they continue to grow and develop.’
Researchers at the Department of Conservative Dentistry, Periodontology and Preventive Dentistry at the Hannover Medical School examined 100 vegetarians and 100 non-vegetarians. Results showed vegetarians had significantly lower probing pocket depths, bleeding on probing, periodontal screening index, a better hygiene index and less mobile teeth.
(1) I Staufenbiel, K Weinspach, G Förster, W Geurtsen & H Güay, Periodontal conditions in vegetarians: a clinical study. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition doi:10.1038/ejcn.2013.101