How can a dentist be vegan? And how do I know if my dentist uses vegan friendly practices? What makes a vegan dental surgery, ‘vegan’?
I just love going to the dentist. Don’t you? After all we only go there when we know our teeth are clean and in good repair….NOT! How do you know if your dentist is vegan friendly if you don’t know what to ask?
As a vegan in need of visiting the dentist, it did occur to me that what goes on behind those closed doors might not in fact be animal friendly. Are the products they use tested on animals? Oh no, it couldn’t be that what they put in my mouth contains animal by products surely? Well, this is something you need to consider.
As a result of searching for vegan, cruelty free businesses to join My Vegan Vouchers, I stumbled across Dr. Helen’s Dental & Implant Studio, Melbourne. She has a full-service dental surgery in Prahran East, Victoria. While Dr Helen serves everyone in the community, her practice has gained a large vegan patient base because Dr. Helen strives to make her practice as minimally-harmful to not only her patients but to animals, too!
Dr Helen has given us some guidelines on what to look out for and questions to consider when looking for a vegan friendly dentist. She uses non-animal derived products where available. Beware, this is more than just pulling teeth! For instance, human donor bone can be used in bone grafting surgeries in preference to animal bone.
Your dentist may prescribe medications for various reasons.
Reasons for medications include: fighting oral diseases, preventing or fighting infection, or it could be to relieve your pain and anxiety that can accompany necessary dental operational type work. Dr Helen managed a rare find and works with a pharmacist who uses non-gelatine capsules for compounding. Your vegan dental surgery may find this difficult but if one doesn’t try, then one will never succeed.
Unfortunately, in medicine, there are times that even in a vegan dental surgery, practitioners have to use animal-tested products due to government regulations and lack of available products or research that haven’t been tested. Science is making progress here, but unfortunately there are areas of the practice that must provide treatment options that aren’t cruelty-free.
So where does the gelatine for these capsules come from?
Gelatine is sourced from animal products such as hooves, skin and bones that have been boiled until they resemble a gel like substance. Something I know I certainly do not want to put into my body, let alone my mouth!
A vegan dentist will ensure the capsules are made with a non gelatin compound. A gelatin substitute can be made from a plant source such as agar agar or other vegetable gums. Now that sounds better to me. I know the chances are that companies use animal testing for medications and therefore they are not cruelty free but that’s for another blog post.
Medicine is one of the areas that animal rights are frequently infringed upon, but Dr. Helen is passionate about making a change for more compassionate alternatives to animal products and animal testing of pharmaceuticals wherever possible. I’m sure your vegan dentist feels the same. The time will come that this will be the norm. Let’s keep working on it together.
There are many questions you could ask your dentist to ensure you have found a vegan dental surgery.
A vegan dentist is going to avoid using ‘catgut’ or sutures, which are porcine or bovine-based. Ask your dentist what their sutures are made from. The answer you want to hear is how sutures can be Vycril or polypropylene sutures. There are many, many types of non-animal derived sutures, so there’s really no need for animal cruelty here.
Does your dentist elect to use models instead of the commonly-used pig jaws in surgery training? That’s something I wouldn’t have thought about. Thanks Dr. Helen.
Vegans tend to be more aware of being earth friendly also.
Being vegan, often but not always, means being eco friendly and aware of how our actions can affect our planet. Dr Helen recommends reducing waste by using an amalgam-retaining suction that stops harmful metals from entering the water supply. Afterall, we all live on this one earth and need to treat it like our own private backyard. Keep it clean please because it’s everyone’s backyard and there’s nowhere else to move to. Not yet anyway.
Using a heat-based sterilisation product for metal instruments instead of disposable plastic materials is a great start. Less plastic in our oceans is vital to the life of our ecosystem without a doubt.
The conclusion of your visit to your vegan dental surgery…phew it’s all done.
At the end of your consultation, your dentist will usually tell you what foods to avoid for the sake of your teeth. Urging a plant-based diet during nutrition consultations for optimum dental health is great advice that Dr. Helen gives her patients.
So your dentist is the one you look up to (literally) when needing advice regarding your dental health. Your vegan dental surgeon will be advising you to use oral hygiene products such as White Glow which is not tested on animals but does contain fluoride. You can avoid toothpastes like Colgate that are tested on animals. You will find plenty of alternatives here such as calendula, bicarbonate, coconut oil and charcoal toothpaste and you will probably find that your dentist will recommend a toothpaste containing fluoride.
What about your toothbrush?
‘The equivalent of five grocery bags of plastic trash sitting on every foot of coastline around the world’, flows into our oceans every year from coastal regions according to National Geographic Magazine. Is your toothbrush plastic? Sadly most are, however there are alternatives available. There are numerous stores now selling eco friendly toothbrushes both in store and online. Bamboo toothbrushes can be purchased from zero waste stores such as Biome.
There are numerous ways of saving our planet and building a vegan society.
It’s worth a mention that Dr. Helen also offers plant-based milks for tea and coffees in her practice as well as sugar-free vegan chocolate for your little treat after check-ups!
Thanks Dr. Helen, you’re a gem!