Gluten, Dairy and Your Dental Health
Whether it’s prompted by a medical condition, an intolerance or simply personal choice, many people have begun examining their diets and eliminating certain foods. Gluten and dairy are common products that people have stopped consuming or cut down on.
Changing your diet can have many effects on your body, including your teeth. In this article we’ll take a look at how these foods — and the absence of them — can affect your dental health.
How does gluten affect teeth?
In people with celiac disease, consuming gluten actually blocks absorption of certain essential vitamins and minerals. One of them is Vitamin D, which is important for the development and strength of our tooth enamel. Weakened enamel leaves teeth vulnerable to decay, causing cavities and other problems. Celiac sufferers can also find themselves developing canker sores, discolored teeth, and inflamed gums.
If you don’t have celiac disease, gluten won’t damage your teeth in these ways — at least not as drastically. But following a gluten-free diet can still be beneficial to your dental health.
Though the issue has not yet been thoroughly researched, many dental professionals have noticed that patients who abstain from eating gluten tend to have healthier gums and less plaque. Dr. William Davis, medical director of the Wheat Belly Lifestyle Institute and a champion of wheatless diets, points out that amylopectin A, a starch found in grains alongside gluten, rapidly breaks down into glucose when exposed to saliva in the mouth.
Glucose is a form of sugar and a favorite food for the bacteria living in your mouth. The more glucose they’re exposed to, the more these bacteria will grow and multiply — leading to tooth decay, plaque and gum disease.
Though these problems aren’t directly caused by gluten itself, there is evidence that avoiding gluten products will lead to positive changes in your oral health.
What about dairy?
As with gluten, many people who cut dairy from their diets do so out of necessity. Lactose intolerance symptoms in adults can range from experiencing mild gastric distress to becoming violently ill. However, many people without this intolerance choose to eliminate dairy as part of a vegan diet.
Milk and other dairy products are rich in calcium, which keeps our bones and teeth health and strong. Particularly for babies, children and teenagers, a calcium-rich diet is important to maintain good oral health.
On the other hand, the lactose in dairy products is a type of sugar. So is milk bad for your teeth or not? It turns out that this question isn’t so easy to answer, and largely depends on the way you consume dairy. If you drink milk at night and don’t brush your teeth afterwards, the sugars will stick to your teeth and can lead to decay. However, consuming milk in moderation and practicing good oral hygiene does provide your body with helpful nutrients.
If you decide to cut dairy out of your diet, just be mindful to replace it with other calcium-rich foods or supplements.
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My name is Jeremy Rourke. I’m part of a family of dentists with my father, brother, cousin and nephew also being dentists. I won a University of Sydney Dental Alumni prize for being the top student in my year and graduated with Honours in 1971. I have been a Registered dentist for over 40 years. In that time I have created a few “firsts” in my efforts to stay ahead.