Keto & Dental Health: Benefits, Side Effects and Pitfalls

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by KetoConnect

Medically reviewed by Mark Burhenne, DDS

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Brushing, flossing, and a checkup twice a year — these are the standard recommendations to hear during a visit to the dentist.

But what if there was more you could do for your mouth?

We started KetoConnect back in 2016 because we were overwhelmed by the benefits of keto. One unexpected advantage of our new diet was better dental health!

We took our own experience and consulted with Dr. Mark Burhenne about the incredible perks of keto for your teeth, and even the entire mouth.

With our expertise on the keto diet and his decades of experience in preventive dental care, we’ve compiled our top five reasons to try a ketogenic diet for better oral health.

What is keto?

Ketosis is a metabolic state that your body goes into when it doesn’t have enough carbohydrates (or sugar).

These carbs are usually what our metabolism runs on, but when they’re in short supply, our body burns fat for energy instead. We use these fat cells to manufacture ketones, an energy source that many scientists say is more efficient than carbohydrates.

So, if keto converts our body to burn fat for energy and diminishes our carb intake, what foods should we be eating? Great question!

To maintain ketosis, you’ll need to stick to a high-fat, medium protein, and low-carb diet. Here’s our short list:

  • Healthy fats
  • Fatty proteins
  • Non-starchy veggies
  • Cheeses, nuts, and seeds
  • A small portion of fruit

Living this way definitely takes some getting used to if all you’ve known is the standard American diet, but it’s worth the shift. Changing to a ketogenic diet can benefit your brain, weight loss goals, and blood sugar levels.

What’s more, it can be a game-changer for your overall dental care and teeth. Here are five ways your mouth will be better with keto.

5 Ways Keto Benefits Oral Health

Seriously, keto will change your life as you burn fat, eat cleaner foods, and improve your mouth from the inside out.

These five benefits are just a few of the ways that people report this high-fat diet boosting their oral health. Thanks to Mark Burhenne, DDS (“the dentist”) for helping us out with these!

1. Reduces Sugar Consumption

Not only does the keto diet cut down on sugar consumption like sweets, but it bans carbs that break down into sugars as they’re digested in the mouth.

In fact, these simple starch carbs (like goldfish and crackers) can be even worse for your teeth than candy as they ferment in your mouth! Thankfully, reduced sugars in the mouth can diminish plaque and halt the development of tartar.

Plaque build-up on the teeth comes from leftover food particles and saliva left hanging around your mouth after meals. Subsequently, tartar can build up from plaque after roughly 12 days.

Carbohydrates are necessary for the production of plaque, so less sugar lingering after meals means less food for the bacteria in your mouth. A keto diet can starve these harmful bacteria, which also produce acid and cause tooth demineralization.

2. Supports a Healthy Oral Microbiome

Just like your gut, your mouth has a microbiome that is a delicate balance of microscopic factors. The healthy (or non-pathogenic) bacteria in your oral microbiome need help maintaining a healthy, happy mouth.

Luckily, one of the dental benefits of keto is promoting more prebiotic foods, or foods that help grow and maintain healthy bacteria in the body.

Unlike a traditional Western diet, where you’re eating carbs that feed germs and pathogenic bacteria in your mouth, this sustains the bacteria you actually want near your teeth.

Basically, you’re eating foods that encourage a beneficial microbiome in your mouth when you’re eating keto.

3. Fights Cavities

Your oral microbiome and overall health is better when you’re eating real, whole, unprocessed foods and cutting out the carbs.

Well, there’s more good news: a ketogenic diet also promotes foods that are high in vitamin K2, a crucial vitamin most people are deficient in.

Vitamin K2 can do many incredible things, from forming new enamel on teeth and preventing cavities to killing pathogenic bacteria in the mouth.

This dietary upkick in vitamin K2, reduced sugar, and a better oral biome combine to fight cavities in an amazing way.

These factors each promote great oral health, and together can help remineralize teeth, protect and grow the good bacteria in the mouth, and halt acid erosion.

Clearly, tooth decay doesn’t stand a chance in the keto diet.

4. Reduces Inflammation

Many people don’t realize that the best way to heal gum disease is through diet, and keto is an excellent resource to stop the inflammation that may cause gum disease and gingivitis.

Foods like nuts, seeds, grass-fed beef, and fatty fish are high in omega-3s that can combat inflammation — and they’re also staples of the keto diet.

Bone broth and shiitake mushrooms, two more keto-friendly foods, are also on the list of best foods to fight gum disease and inflammation.

As if that weren’t enough, here’s a bonus: keto’s emphasis on cutting down sugar is just one more way to starve inflammation and gum disease!

5. Supports Proper Orthodontic Growth

Remember the vitamin K2-rich, teeth-friendly foods that a keto diet promotes? Well, those cheeses, butter, pastured eggs, and offal meats aren’t done giving yet. (Seriously, keto and dental health benefits are best friends).

Vitamin K2 and calcium, found in abundance in keto recipes, also promote proper growth in the teeth and face. If you have braces or need orthodontic work done, a keto diet rich in K2 and calcium may help in the process.

Ketosis & Acidity

Acetone in the breath can be a concern to some people considering a ketogenic diet, and not just due to the bad breath it creates.

A high load of acid, which can be caused not only by too many processed carbs but also by too much high-fat protein, can put individuals at risk for“chronic low-grade acidosis.” Left unchecked, this can cause kidney stones, hurt bone health, and even increase inflammation.

To reap the full benefits of keto, it’s important to practice alkaline keto. This means balancing these fats and proteins with leafy greens and fiber, staying hydrated, and steering away from sneaky foods that are high in acid.

These include brussels sprouts, alcohol, and coffee, as well as too much dairy. This prevents acidosis and low pH concerns and keeps you at optimal performance while practicing a keto diet for your teeth (and the rest of your body).

Get Rid of Keto Breath

As you can imagine, changing your body’s energy source is a serious switch to make. One pitfall is a collection of symptoms that can present as the “keto flu” during the beginning of your ketogenic journey.

This can include the flu-like symptoms of nausea, muscle soreness/cramps, headache, weakness, and even sugar cravings.

Unfortunately, bad breath (caused by the acetone we discussed above) is often another symptom of the keto flu, and this side effect has been reported in other low-carb eating plans like Atkins as well.

This is due to the fact that ketones leave the body in 2 ways: through your urine and your mouth. The high-protein foods in keto also break down into sulfur that linger in the mouth and tongue with an unpleasant odor.

Here’s how to combat keto breath so your breath smells as good as you feel:

  • Pop a piece of sugar-free gum with xylitol to freshen your breath and stimulate your saliva production. (Just don’t overdo it — TMJ is no fun).
  • Sip on water to wash away plaque build-up.
  • Scrape your tongue to physically remove the buildup of sulfur.
  • Oil pulling and proper oral hygiene can neutralize those acids that are causing the smell.

Need more halitosis help? Check out Dr. B’s ultimate guide to treating keto breath. Thankfully, with these tips and a few weeks of time, your bad breath should subside.

Ancient Diets & Dental Health

We asked Dr. Burhenne to weigh in on the validity of keto as a dietary option for better dental health. Here’s what he said:

For years, I’ve been advocating for eating habits that imitate our those of our ancestors, such as Paleo and keto. Less processed ancient diets were associated with better oral health than we see today with our Western eating plan.

Keto’s low-sugar, low-carbohydrate, whole foods, and non-processed components are excellent steps toward better dental health.

The nutrients and vitamins offered in keto also provide building blocks for remineralizing teeth and fighting gum disease. Overall, this is a great alternative to the modern diet that’s harming our teeth.

We must get back to our roots in order to get back to our health, both orally and overall.

FAQs

Q:

How do I know if my body is in ketosis?

A: Several things can indicate you’ve reached ketosis, like keto breath, weight loss, and a diminished appetite, but the only at-home way to be certain is to test your blood ketone levels or your breath.
Q:

Can I still have some carbs on a keto diet?

A: Eating more than roughly 30 net carbs a day will kick you right out of ketosis, and it will take days or weeks to get back into a ketogenic state. Monitoring carbs and avoiding “cheat days” is crucial to a successful keto diet.

Key Takeaways: Keto & Dental Health

The keto diet isn’t just another fad, but a viable option for better dental health.

The high-fat, low-carb structure of ketogenic eating provides perks for not only weight loss, brain function, and blood sugar, but for supporting your teeth and mouth.

While the dental benefits of keto are far-ranging, some major advantages include:

  1. Reducing sugar consumption
  2. Improving the oral microbiome
  3. Fighting inflammation
  4. Reducing inflammation
  5. Supporting proper orthodontic growth

Even pitfalls like acidity and keto breath can be managed through simple steps. Dr. B agrees that diets mimicking ancient eating patterns are beneficial to teeth and oral health, so try out a keto diet today for better dental health tomorrow!

If you’re interested in jumping in with both feet, we have a killer Keto Meal Prep for Weight Loss Course. We want to set you up for a lifetime of success by giving you 150 days of keto meal prep.

This doesn’t have to be a quick fad diet. You can change your life with the right tools.

Read Next: What to Do About Keto Breath From a Low-Carb Diet

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