Dental Tribune Europe

Vegetarians have better periodontal health, worse dental status

By Yvonne Bachmann, DTI
July 12, 2013

HANNOVER, Germany: German researchers have found that vegetarians have a better periodontal status compared with meat eaters. In a recent study, they showed less inflammation, less periodontal damage and better dental home care. However, their dental status was worse than that of non-vegetarians.

Very few investigations have been conducted on the possible correlation between vegetarian diet and periodontal health, and the sample sizes in these studies are small. In their study, researchers at the Department of Conservative Dentistry, Periodontology and Preventive Dentistry at the Hannover Medical School examined 100 vegetarians and 100 non-vegetarians. They carried out a full mouth assessment of the participants to determine their periodontal and dental status, and distributed a questionnaire on the participants’ oral hygiene habits and level of education.

Well-known periodontal risk factors, such as age, sex and smoking habits, were equally distributed in each group (71 females, 29 males, and 10 smokers in each group; mean age of 41.45 in the vegetarian group and of 41.72 in the non-vegetarian group).

The research team found that vegetarians had significantly lower probing pocket depths, bleeding on probing, and periodontal screening index scores, better oral hygiene index scores and fewer mobile teeth. Dental examinations revealed significantly fewer missing teeth, but more decayed and eroded teeth in vegetarians. Furthermore, vegetarians had a higher level of education but visited the dentist significantly less frequently.

“In brief, vegetarians have better periodontal health but worse dental health,” Dr Ingmar Staufenbiel, resident dentist in the department, told Dental Tribune ONLINE. “The two main reasons are the lower frequency of dental visits and above all the below-average use of fluoridated toothpaste. Many vegetarians do not use fluoridated toothpaste or salt even though after decades of research the importance of regular preventive fluoridation has been scientifically proven.” (Editor’s note: Fluoride is often prepared using beef tallow.)

Surprisingly, the research indicated that overall oral status was the worst in vegans, who consume only plant foods. “Among the 100 vegetarians examined 11 were vegans. Their dental and periodontal health was worse than that of vegetarians (lacto-ovo-vegetarians) and non-vegetarians. However, owing to the small number of vegans, statistical significance could not be tested,” Staufenbiel explained to Dental Tribune ONLINE.

The study, titled “Periodontal conditions in vegetarians: A clinical study”, was published online on 29 May in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Staufenbiel is currently conducting a follow-up study titled “Dental health in vegetarians”. The results are likely to be published in autumn.

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