Over the last few years, the keto diet has grown in popularity. It’s similar to the Atkins diet, but whereas the Atkins diet slowly adds carbohydrates back, the keto diet keeps carbs at a minimum. This allows your body to stay in a state of ketosis, which is when your body burns fat for energy instead of glucose. Many individuals have had great success with the keto diet. But you shouldn’t start a diet without doing your research.
What you eat and when doesn’t just affect your body and physical health; it also affects your oral health. It’s important to take into consideration how the keto diet affects dental health.
Less Sugar, Less Plaque, Less Cavities
The keto diet focuses on low carb and high fat. Think meat, fish, cheese, and nuts. The goal is to cut out sugar almost entirely. Reducing your sugar intake is a positive thing for many reasons. Less sugar is good for your body because it will help reduce inflammation and disease, but also, by eliminating sugar, you decrease the amount of plaque in your mouth.
Sugar is the culprit behind the development of plaque. It feeds the bacteria in your mouth that contribute to tartar and film build-up. Plaque eats away at the enamel on your teeth, leading to several oral health problems. Everyone has some degree of plaque, as even healthy foods, such as fruit, contain sugar. However, individuals on a keto diet tend to experience less plaque because of their lack of carbs.
And when you have less plaque, you also have fewer cavities – another oral health win for the keto diet. Reduced sugar helps to keep your mouth healthy. The keto diet prevents sugar from lingering on your teeth and leading to dental erosion. Of course, you still need to brush and floss regularly to maintain good oral health, even if you do take the sugar out of your diet and your mouth.
It’s important to have a balanced diet. And to put it bluntly, keto is not a balanced diet. You should never follow a keto diet long-term. Your body needs balance, and complex carbs help to do just that. Complex carbohydrates help to give us energy and provide us with lots of essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Without the sugar (or glucose) from those carbohydrates, your internal pH is thrown off and begins to turn acidic.
In time, this becomes a major concern because having acidic saliva can leave your mouth feeling dry. Dry mouth can lead to a host of dental issues for your teeth and gums. Saliva is crucial for keeping our mouths clean throughout the day. It not only fights off germs in our mouth, but saliva also helps to rinse our mouth and teeth, removing any lingering food and particles.
In addition to dry mouth, the keto diet can leave your mouth smelling not so fresh. If you’ve done your research, you’ve probably seen the term “keto breath” or “dragon breath.” Bad keto breath, often metallic in nature, is caused by the conversion of fatty acids into ketones rather than by dental decay or oral infections. While your unpleasant breath may be a sign that the diet is working and doing what it is intended to do to your body, it can still leave you annoyed or embarrassed.
You should always visit your dentist to ensure nothing more serious is going on and that your breath is not a result of an issue with your teeth or gums. However, to help combat keto breath, try chewing sugar-free gum. This will help with any dry mouth symptoms and will increase your saliva production. Drinking plenty of water will also help. And most importantly, keep up with a good oral health routine. This includes brushing after meals, flossing every day, and using an alcohol-free mouthwash to rinse your mouth out daily.
Discuss How Your Keto Diet Affects Your Dental Health With Your Dentist
It’s always a good idea to discuss any type of major diet or health adjustments you plan to take with your primary care provider and dentist. Again, your diet plays a major impact on your dental health. If you’re considering starting the keto diet, talk to your dentist about any possible side effects that you can expect, and ask what steps you can take to ensure your smile stays clean and healthy.