In May, a cross-sectional study from Germany was released, comparing the teeth and gum health of vegetarians (89 lacto-ovo, 11 vegans) to 100 non-vegetarians (1).
Among the exclusion criteria was “systemic diseases that negatively influence periodontal conditions (for example, diabetes mellitus…).” Because vegetarians have much lower rates of diabetes, that exclusion criteria could negate the capacity for this study to actually describe differences between vegetarians and non-vegetarians. There was also no information regarding from where they recruited the vegetarians and how anti-mainstream dental care they might be. They did find that the vegetarians in the study went to the dentist less.
The authors’ summary:
“A vegetarian diet or vegetarian lifestyle, respectively, has a positive effect on periodontal conditions. Vegetarians show less inflammation signs, less periodontal damage, less [missing teeth] and as a result of a better dental home care reveal better plaque scores. In addition, vegetarians have a higher level of education. However, regarding the dental conditions, vegetarians show more [decayed teeth] and more erosion.”
To put this in some perspective, the vegetarians averaged .98 teeth with erosion while the non-vegetarians averaged .40.
I would not take this study to mean anything for any given person’s dental health. As far as a vegan diet goes, make sure you get enough calcium and vitamin D. I personally get regular dental check-ups and use a toothpaste with fluoride. Be careful of eating too much dried fruit.
For more info on the German study, here is an article from the Dental Tribune (thanks, Dima):
1. Staufenbiel I, Weinspach K, Förster G, Geurtsen W, Günay H. Periodontal conditions in vegetarians: a clinical study. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2013 Aug;67(8):836-40. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2013.101. Epub 2013 May 29. | link