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Planning Your Vegetarian Diet with Your Oral Health in Mind

August 5th, 2020

If you’ve been following a vegetarian or vegan diet, you know that there’s much more to living a healthy life than simply avoiding meat products. Making sure your diet includes enough protein, as well as any nutrients that are primarily available in animal products, takes planning, and there’s no one-menu-fits-all solution.

Why? Because there’s no one menu that will suit all vegetarians. Specific vegetarian diets can allow for many different options:

  • Vegan—a plant-based diet which excludes meat, fish, dairy, and egg products
  • Ovo-vegetarian—includes eggs as a dietary option, but no dairy
  • Lacto-vegetarian— includes dairy as a dietary option, but no eggs
  • Lacto-ovo-vegetarian—a meat-free diet which allows both dairy products and eggs

If you are a pescatarian, who eats fish on occasion, or a flexitarian, who sometimes includes meat in a meal, your menu options are even broader.

So let’s look at the big picture—a healthy vegetarian diet is really more concerned with the foods you do eat for nutrition rather than the foods you don’t. You can create a meal plan rich in all your essential nutrients with a little research, no matter which type of vegetarian diet is your go-to choice.

And while you’re constructing your ideal menu guidelines, don’t forget about your dental nutrition!

In terms of keeping your teeth and gums their healthiest, what important vitamins and minerals are often missing from vegetarian and vegan diets? Let’s look at three of them.

  • Calcium

Calcium is essential for maintaining strong bones and tooth enamel. Without enough calcium, a weakened jawbone leads to loose, and even lost, teeth. The acids in our food and the acids created by oral bacteria also weaken the minerals in enamel, including calcium. These weak spots can eventually become cavities. A diet rich in calcium not only supports the bones holding our teeth, but can even help repair, or remineralize, enamel which has been weakened by acidic erosion.

For vegetarians who include dairy in their diets, dairy products are a great way to include calcium. Milk, cheese, and yogurt are traditional and rich sources of this mineral.

For vegans, it’s a bit more challenging, but still doable! Non-dairy foods providing calcium include dark green vegetables (kale, broccoli, spinach), certain types of tofu, and fortified cereals, juices, and non-dairy milks.

  • Vitamin D

Now you’re ready to put that calcium to work by making sure you have enough vitamin D in your diet. Vitamin D not only helps keep our bones healthy, it also enables our bodies to absorb calcium. Bonus—it’s been linked to better gum health in several studies.

So how to get more vitamin D? If you eat dairy, most dairy products have been fortified with vitamin D. If eggs are a part of your diet, egg yolks are a great source. Pescatarians can enjoy the benefits of vitamin D from fatty fish such as tuna and salmon.

Because we get most of our vitamin D from sun exposure or foods derived from animals, plant-based foods are not a practical way to obtain the vitamin D you need. But, just as non-vegetarians can get plentiful vitamin D from fortified dairy products, vegans also have options. Try adding cereals, juices, and non-dairy milks fortified with this essential nutrient to your diet, or take a vegan vitamin D supplement.

  • Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is essential for healthy red blood cells, nerve cell development, brain function, and DNA production. (This is why it’s especially important for pregnant and nursing women.) Vitamin B12 can also impact your oral health. A B12 deficiency can cause a swollen, sore, or inflamed tongue, loss of taste, and gum, tongue, and mouth ulcers.

Unfortunately, vitamin B12 is reliably found only in animal foods and nutritional yeasts. If you would prefer an egg-free and dairy-free diet, look to B12 supplements or B12-fortified cereals, plant-based milks, energy bars, and other vegan options. This is a good subject to discuss with your physician, because even supplements and fortified foods might not provide enough B12.

In fact, Dr. Pope, Dr. Pickering, and Dr. Lewis can be vital resources when you’re planning your healthiest vegetarian diet. The next time you visit our San Mateo, CA office, ask for recommendations for supplements if you’re concerned that diet alone can’t provide for all of your nutrition essentials. Finally, care should be taken to ensure that, even with supplements, you get the proper amount of the vitamins and minerals you need.

As a vegetarian, you are used to the concept of care. Whether it was concern for nutrition, the planet, the animal world, or another reason that drew you to a vegetarian diet, be sure to care for your body as well as your dietary choices. Careful planning can ensure a diet which supports not only your general health, but your oral health, for a lifetime of nourishing—and well-nourished—smiles.

Thirsty? We Have Some Ideas on Tap

July 22nd, 2020

No, we don’t mean the latest foamy offering from your favorite microbrewery. When you’re thirsty, one of the best options available is literally at your fingertips—tap water, straight from your faucet. It might not be the most adventurous choice, but drinking a tall glass of fresh tap water is refreshing in so many healthy ways.

Physical Health

Water conveniently available at home is much more than a convenience. We need to keep hydrated, because our bodies are made to run on water. To name just a few of its benefits, water provides nutrients to organs and cells, eliminates waste, regulates our temperature, and protects our joints and delicate tissues. Dr. Pope, Dr. Pickering, and Dr. Lewis and our San Mateo, CA team will tell you all about the importance of proper hydration when it comes to your mouth, gums, and teeth, but here are a few highlights:

  • We need to be hydrated to produce enough saliva. Saliva, which is more than 90% water, helps prevent cavities and protect enamel by both washing away bacteria and balancing acids in the mouth which can cause decay.
  • Tooth enamel is so strong because it’s made of calcium and phosphate. These minerals are leached from our enamel by both bacteria-produced acids and dietary acids. Saliva also contains calcium and phosphate, and, with fluoride, restores these minerals in our enamel, leaving teeth stronger and less likely to develop cavities.
  • As a bonus, a quick rinse with water when you can’t brush after eating is a great way to remove food particles left behand—especially healthy when you’ve had sugary or acidic foods.

Ecological Health

If you want to reduce waste, one of the easiest ways to do so is to use tap water instead of bottled water.

  • Bottled water has a carbon footprint. It takes energy (and additional water) to create plastic and glass bottles, to label them, and to transport them. Water piped into your home from local sources? No bottles, labels, or long road trips necessary.
  • Water bottles should be recycled. Unfortunately, many cities don’t offer, or have stopped offering, recycling. Plastic and glass empties end up in landfills, littering our neighborhoods, or in our waters.

Budget Health

Getting your daily hydration from bottles can add up quickly.

  • Bottled water can cost hundreds of times as much as tap water. While local water prices vary, the average gallon of tap water costs less than a penny. No matter what kind of sale your local store is offering, bottled water will never be the bargain tap water is.
  • When you buy many small bottles instead of a few larger ones, or choose more expensive “designer” water, your costs can mount up even more.
  • When you need to bring water with you for work, sports, or other activities, consider filling a reusable bottle with water from home.

Dental Health

Getting the recommended amount of fluoride in your diet is one of the single best things you can do for your dental health. Fortunately, many communities make this easy for us by providing fluoridated drinking water.

  • Fluoride works with the calcium and phosphate in your saliva to create stronger enamel, so cavities can’t form as easily when your teeth are exposed to plaque and food particles.
  • Fluoride helps strengthen your child’s permanent teeth as they develop, and helps prevent cavities in both baby teeth and permanent teeth as children grow.
  • If your community doesn’t offer fluoridated water, ask Dr. Pope, Dr. Pickering, and Dr. Lewis for the best way to get the fluoride you need to protect your teeth.

For the good of your body, your planet, your wallet, and last, but most certainly not least, the health of your teeth and gums, consider a glass of water. So many benefits—and you have them all on tap!

Healthy Diet, Healthier Gums?

July 15th, 2020

Since gum disease is one of the most common adult diseases, it’s no wonder periodontists like Dr. Pope, Dr. Pickering, and Dr. Lewis stress the importance of prevention. Effective brushing and flossing, regular dental appointments for exams and cleanings, and a prompt visit to our San Mateo, CA office if you notice symptoms of gingivitis (early gum disease) are all important steps to prevent more serious periodontal disease from developing.

One more step you can add to keep your gums their healthiest? Add some gum-healthy foods to your shopping cart! To see how your diet can help prevent gum disease, let’s look at what can cause gum disease.

When plaque builds up between teeth and gums, the bacteria found in plaque cause our gum tissue to become inflamed, swollen, and painful. Left untreated, the gums pull away from the teeth, leaving pockets where bacteria collect and can cause infection.

Prolonged inflammation can lead to the destruction of gum tissue and the connective tissues which anchor our teeth to the alveolar bone in the jaw. Bone loss and even tooth loss can result from untreated gum disease.

Fortunately for us, there are foods that fight inflammation, help with healing, and strengthen and support gum tissue before problems develop. Let’s take a look at some of the valuable gum-healthy nutrients you can add to your diet with some tasty additions to your shopping list:

  • Vitamin A

This vitamin is essential for the health and healing of mucous membranes, including both our gums and the soft membranes in our mouths. Vitamin A is found in animal products such as dairy foods, meat, and liver, or formed in the body from beta-carotenes, found in plant foods such as carrots, peppers, pumpkin, squash, and sweet potatoes.

  • Vitamin C

Vitamin C is one of the so-called “essential nutrients.” These are nutrients that are necessary for our bodies to function properly, and which can only be supplied in our diets. Vitamin C is needed to help our bodies produce collagen, the substance that provides support and structure to our tissues. It also helps us repair tissue, and is a powerful antioxidant. One of the obvious signs that your diet doesn’t contain enough vitamin C is inflamed and bleeding gums.

When we think vitamin C, we instantly picture citrus fruits. Oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, and all their cousins are a wonderful source of vitamin C. Looking for a little more variety? You’re in luck! Fruit fans can load up on strawberries, kiwi fruit, mangos, and papayas. Love your veggies? Red peppers, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli contain more vitamin C per serving than a medium orange.

  • Vitamin D

Vitamin D, of course, is essential for dental health because it helps us absorb the calcium that keep teeth (and bones) strong. And there’s more! It helps the body fight infection and reduce inflammation, and studies have suggested a link between vitamin D and better gum health.

Sunlight exposure leads our bodies to produce vitamin D naturally, but it is available in foods as well. Fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, and herring, are a rich source of the vitamin, as are cod liver oil and egg yolks. It’s also available in foods fortified with vitamin D, such as cow’s milk, soy milk, orange juice, and even many cereals. And while you’re getting the benefit of vitamin D from dairy, you’re also enjoying the proteins they contain, one of which helps neutralize acids in the mouth that can irritate gums. Bonus!

  • Iron

Iron deficiency can lead to a common form of anemia, where your body isn’t creating enough red blood cells to deliver the oxygen your tissues need. (In fact, one of the most noticeable symptoms of anemia is pale gums.) This condition can cause a number of problems, including an immune system that doesn’t work as well as it should. A strong immune system helps us fight infection, including gum disease and other oral infections.

A diet rich in iron can help prevent anemia. We absorb the most iron from foods such as meat, eggs, and fish, but iron is also present in beans, lentils, leafy greens, whole grains, nuts, and prunes if you’re looking for flavorful vegetarian options.

  • Omega-3s

Research has shown a possible relationship between getting the recommended dietary amounts of omega-3s and a lower occurrence of periodontitis. In other studies, omega-3s have shown promise in reducing the periodontal inflammation that can lead to severe gum disease.

Our bodies can’t produce omega-3 fatty acids on their own, but fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, herring, and sardines, a variety of high-fat seeds and nuts, and plant oils contain several different types of omega-3 fatty acids. Some foods are fortified with omega-3s, or your doctor might recommend fish oil (and algae oil for vegetarians) as a supplement.

Speaking of supplements, why not just add vitamin, mineral, and other nutritional supplements to our daily diet? Believe it or not, there can actually be too much of a good thing. Body chemistry requires balance, so talk to your doctor about whether or not supplements are necessary in your particular diet, and just what kinds and how much to take.

Whew! That’s a lot to think about for one shopping cart, but that’s just a small portion of the many foods—and the many vitamins and minerals—you can add to your menu to support oral health in a tasty, effective, and positive way.

After all, when we think about the “do’s and don’ts” of a dental-healthy diet, it’s all too often a collection of “don’ts.” Don’t eat a lot of sugar. Avoid acidic foods and beverages. Cut down on refined carbs.

And all of those suggestions are important, because the early stages of gingivitis are often easy to miss. So, let’s not forget the things we can actually do to be proactive with our gum health. Besides good dental hygiene and regular check-ups, eating a well-balanced diet helps keep your gums their healthiest.

Periodontists are specialists in the diagnosis of gum disease and the treatment of all the structures that support the teeth. And while we are trained and experienced in the most effective procedures for treating periodontal disease, we are also experts in providing you with the most up-to-date suggestions for prevention. If you have any questions or concerns about maintaining your periodontal health, contact our San Mateo, CA periodontal office. We could provide you with some food for thought!

Persistent Bad Breath? It Could Be Time to Talk to Your Periodontist

July 8th, 2020

Part of presenting our best faces to the world is making sure our smiles are bright and our breath is fresh. Sure, we’ve all been embarrassed by an occasional pungent reminder of that garlic bread we just couldn’t pass up, but with daily brushing and flossing, fresh breath is the norm. Until it isn’t.

If you’ve been carefully avoiding strong foods in your diet, if you’ve started brushing a lot more often, if you’re relying on mints and mouthwash to get you through the day, and you still have bad breath, it’s time to see your dentist or doctor.

Chronic bad breath can be a symptom of tooth decay, dry mouth, oral infections, diabetes, kidney disease, and many other medical or dental problems. It can also be a red flag for serious gum disease, or periodontitis.

How does gum disease cause persistent bad breath? The bacteria and plaque that we are careful to brush away from the surface of our teeth can also stick below the gum line. These bacteria irritate the tissues around them, and the area becomes inflamed. Pockets form around the teeth where bacteria collect and multiply, becoming the source of that unpleasant odor.

And, while bad breath is an embarrassing consequence of gum disease, there are other consequences that are far more serious. Infection causes inflammation, and untreated infection and inflammation lead to the breakdown of gum and bone tissue and, eventually, even tooth loss.

If your dentist discovers signs of advanced gum disease, it’s time to give a periodontist like Dr. Pope, Dr. Pickering, and Dr. Lewis a call! Because this dental specialty requires three additional years of study after dental school, focusing on the treatment of periodontal disease and cosmetic restorations, periodontists have the knowledge and experience to treat the cause of your gum disease and to restore your gum and bone health.

What can your periodontist do for you? Periodontists are skilled in many procedures that can be used to save gums and teeth, including:

  • Antibiotic therapy, which can be used alone or with other procedures to treat periodontitis.
  • Non-surgical treatments, such as scaling and root planing, which remove plaque and tartar from areas of the teeth above and below the gum line and clean and smooth tooth surfaces.
  • Flap surgery, which allows the periodontist to remove tartar, smooth any irregular tooth surfaces, and then reposition the gum tissue snugly around the teeth to eliminate pockets where bacteria can multiply.
  • Bone and gum grafts, bone surgery, and surgical tissue regeneration, to replace and repair damaged bone and gum tissue.

If you are experiencing persistent bad breath, talk to your dentist or doctor about the possible causes, and whether a visit to our San Mateo, CA office is in order. Periodontal treatment can stop the progression of gum disease, and even restore damaged tissue and bone to make sure you keep your teeth for a lifetime. And one additional bonus? The return of your bright smile and fresh breath. Let your periodontist help you breathe easy once again!

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