These days, it can seem like people change their diet as often as they (should) change their toothbrush. Whether they’re built on the idea that potatoes hold the key to weight loss, or believe in fasting in accordance with the lunar phases (we’re not kidding about The Werewolf Diet), our biggest question about diets isn’t how much they’ll affect your waistline for your “summer bod,” but rather how they’ll affect your teeth — because oral health is the gateway to whole body health.
It’s really not hard to realize that any diet will impact your oral health, since your food literally passes through your mouth. Science! And just as different foods will have either a positive or a negative affect on your teeth, so too will different diets. Your diet can increase your likelihood of bad breath (we’re not just talking about garlic), increase the risk of tooth decay and even make your mouth more susceptible to infection. On the other hand/mouth, some diets feature foods that are specifically beneficial for the health of your teeth.
Every office has a few Keaters (our made-up term for people on the keto diet) who talk about the cheese-covered steak they have for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert every day. The keto diet includes protein, fats and very few carbs (good and bad kinds), making this the diet of choice for those who love fatty fish and hate bread. By lowering your intake of carbs, your body is eventually induced into a state known as ketosis (no, this doesn’t mean you’ll be able to move things with your mind), a natural state that allows our bodies to survive when food intake is low. Basically, you eat less, but feel fuller longer.
It might sound a bit confusing up front, but the good news is there are a few obvious clues that signal your diet is working. What are they? When your body is in ketosis, your breath will start to smell like nail polish remover. This pesky side effect is the result of your body burning fat instead of carbohydrates for fuel, which causes smelly chemicals known as ketones to be released. While this isn’t ideal if you’re trying to find your soulmate, it is handy if you’re hoping to shed a little water weight.
Plus, according to quip Dentist Dr. Hariawala, a low carb diet like keto “also lowers your risk for dental decay, since the cavity causing bacteria are deprived of their primary fuel: sugar.” Another study even shows that lower carb diets with higher amounts of other nutrients leads to a reduced risk of gum disease.
quip tip: If you’d rather not smell like a nail salon at the office, take a toothbrush to work and scrub up throughout the day, or chew on parsley or mint (both are within the guidelines of the diet).
First things first, hardcore fasting isn’t really a sustainable diet. But when approached correctly, fasting can be beneficial to your oral health. Intermittent fasting involves sticking to a regular eating schedule while incorporating a solid 16 hours of fasting per day (note: this means no midnight brie binges, sorryyy). In short, intermittent fasting doesn’t change what you eat, but rather when you eat.
Studies have shown that the relationship between fasting and oral hygiene is a positive one. “Reducing the frequency of snacking reduces the risk for dental cavities,” according to Dr. Hariawala. Fasting can not only maintain the quality of your oral health, but it can improve and regulate it over time. It’s important to note that intermittent fasting still requires you to ensure the foods you are eating are nutritious and balanced — otherwise, you’re not so much fasting as binging, and the oral and overall health outcome won’t be good if you don’t choose your foods wisely.
Low-Fat and Vegan Diets
Balance is always key, and If you’re vegan, it’s important to make sure your body is still receiving a good balance of the nutrients it needs, especially if you’re working in supplements and substitutes. By cutting out meat, animal products and other full proteins, you risk losing essential B12 vitamins, D3 vitamins, Omega-3 fats, heme iron and collagen. On the bright side, you also give yourself various benefits of weight loss, a reduced risk of certain cancers, a lowered risk of heart disease and the chance to #humblebrag about it to all of your friends.
If your diet is well-rounded and includes the right substitutes, veganism is a wholly sustainable diet that won’t have adverse effects on your oral health. According to quip Dentist Dr. Krell (who happens to be vegan), “Though vegetarians and vegans don’t hae more cavities than those eating more conventional diets, they may have greater signs of acid erosion on their teeth.”
But, we do need to address that elephant-sized cavity in the room: dairy. By cutting out cheese, milk, and yogurt, you need to be wary of your body’s calcium levels. You’ll need to find a different way for your body to produce and retain vitamins A, D and K, which you need to absorb calcium and maintain healthy teeth.
With that being said, Dr. Krell says there’s “evidence to suggest that a plant based diet can reduce the risk of oral cancer.” In addition, plant-based foods are more alkaline, meaning switching to a vegan lifestyle is potentially beneficial in the long term as an alkaline pH is better for teeth.
quip tip: To help keep your vitamin D levels on point, consider soaking up rays when you can, or consuming recommended fortified foods, and vitamin D supplements — all of which will keep your teeth happy.
The Coffee Diet
Rejoice, 4:00 AM alarm setters! Sing out, “No Talkie Until Coffee” bumper sticker toters! And shed your shame, “I’ll drink it, shoot it, eat it, snort it” Lorelai Gilmore admirer!
The coffee diet advocates for drinking a cup of hot, black coffee right after every meal, as well as before bathing and just before exercising. The diet claims to burn fat, suppress appetite and speed up metabolism, and apparently has the capacity to boost athletic performance. This, combined with a well-rounded every day diet, keeps your engine of a body running at full steam. As an added bonus, drinking coffee has also been linked to lowering certain health risks, including several cancers. Plus, coffee just makes everything seem so much more, well, achievable. (FYI some studies do suggest mortality rates increase among heavy coffee drinkers, but the research is inconclusive.)
Although your brain may thank you, your teeth will not. Like most drinks besides water, coffee is acidic, leading to enamel erosion, thin teeth, bad breath and yellowing. However, according to Dr. Hariawala, so long as you’re taking care of your oral health with the proper tools, there’s no reason you need to say goodbye to the odd hot pick-me-up.
“If you choose to follow the coffee diet, I recommend that you also drink plenty of water after your coffee to not only protect your teeth from the acidity, but also to remain hydrated.”
quip tip: If the coffee diet sounds like it’s up your alley, you might want to consider your options when it comes to teeth whitening first.
All in all, your mouth and teeth are essentially your body’s bouncers, so whatever goes into your body will have to face with them first. And as a general rule, it’s always wise to keep the bouncers happy. And, of course, be sure to chat with your doctor and dental pro before hopping into the next diet you read about from your favorite trendy wellness blogger.