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How Low-Carb Diets Affect Oral Health

man eating steakThe term “low carb” means different things to different dieting communities. Some choose the Paleo way to low carb, focusing on a diet rich in meat and void of any grains, dairy, or sugar. Atkins followers who are in the “induction” phase choose to limit their carbs to just 20 grams per day – also without sugar – that triggers ketosis in the body. Still others choose to limit their carb intake moderately by simply eliminating grains, flour, and bread. All of these low carb approaches to weight loss have been proven successful in that department, but what kind of effect do they have on our oral health?

Good for your teeth and gums

We all know that sugar promotes disease-causing bacteria in the mouth. Carbohydrates provide the bacteria with the fuel they need to produce acid in the mouth, which causes demineralization and leads to decay and caries. By limiting consumption of both sugar and carbohydrates, the essential factors for creating acid erosion on the teeth are limited. This means that most low carb diets will lead to a much healthier mouth overall by preventing tartar build-up, cavities, and frequent visits to the dentist.

Bad for your breath

The Atkins diet promotes a two-week induction phase in which followers limit their carbs to only 20 grams per day. This begins the process of ketosis, which tells your body to burn fat for fuel instead of what it naturally chooses to burn first — carbohydrates. Some people can achieve a state of ketosis with more than 20 grams of carbs per day. While ketosis provides the benefit of rapid weight loss, it also leads to halitosis (chronic bad breath). The reason for this is because one of the ketones produced during this state cannot be used by the body, so it is excreted in the urine and exhaled by the lungs as waste. While the resulting chronic bad breath causes no harm to your oral health, it can be especially annoying when you’re in close quarters with others. Drinking plenty of water will help to dilute the concentration of ketones to help weaken the stench. You can also help disguise it by chewing sugarless gum or sucking on mints that contain xylitol. Increasing your carbohydrate intake and exiting the state of ketosis may be the best option for you if your halitosis is too difficult to manage.

If you have any concerns about your oral health or are interested cosmetic dentistry with Dr. Kevin B. Sands, please schedule an appointment by calling (310) 273-0111 or by filling out our online contact form today.

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