Being vegan is a centred lifestyle of doing the best that can be done in consideration of everything we share on this planet. It encompasses conscious mindfulness that is essentially an ethical curiosity about who, what, where, when and how of anything. Everything relates to self and the world because of the fundamental understanding that all is completely connected.
Veganism can be the path discovered unquestionably, willingly or reluctantly.
Unquestionably because of respected cultural beliefs. In the 1930s, Jamaica, the Rastafari movement based their celebrated food, Ital, on natural living. There may be no formal Rastafari creed and slight differences between communities but Rastas are earth preservers with the principle that the food they eat should come from the land. ‘Ital’ comes from the word ‘vital’ and the choice to eat natural, plant-based, unprocessed and unadulterated foods, is done equally for the soul as the body.
Until the mid 1970s most Rastafarians accepted and adopted the traditional beliefs. In ’73 Joseph Owens published an approach that was more in line with the times that Jamaican author Marlon James termed “post-post Colonial”. It was violent birth of high stakes and gunman. Turf wars, political upheaval and five flights to Miami every day. It was an aggressive and progressive time. Reggae wasn’t even quite ten years old and was becoming a commercial force. It created opportunity for young people who couldn’t otherwise get into the music industry. The influence of the UK mother country was turned down for American culture.
It was about defining who you are as opposed to who you’re not.
Caribbean postcolonial theologian Michael N. Jagessar took on that ideas exist in order to be revised, and in 1991 articulated a systematic approach to Rastafari theology. It gave insight into the changes, with of course the key beliefs remaining. Among them is the supremacy of life where human nature should be preserved and protected; and respect for nature mirroring the importance and respect for animals and the environment in their food laws. Salvation on earth shows the Rastafari reverence for all that is earthly and present having priority over the heavens.
Veganism is very much about defining who you are and is certainly not opposed to who is not. Its higher thinking of self and others is so easily misconstrued as thinking higher of yourself than others. It’s really not like that at all.
It’s challenging for most when we notice, or are presented with anything different to our own paradigm. Just ask someone whose vegan path began kicking and screaming with food allergies.
The reluctant. Most often, the most reluctantly reluctant. Its hard work is life changing. And can change another life; one that belongs to another living creature.
The willing are those who happily made the choice that interested and inspired them. In the same way they saw a career in dentisty, a lifestyle that didn’t have to be compromised was equally imagined at it all became possible.
A vegan dentist is very aware of the materials used as clinicians and will find out if they have been tested on animals or contain animal products. For a vegan, having a vegan dentist is like finding someone who speaks in exactly the same timbre and tempo as the voice that we hear in our head that is us. One of those things that you completely acknowledge may never happen and when it does it will always feel like such a gift.
After tooth extraction, for example there is the need for a haemostatic agent in order to stop the bleeding. Many contain chitosan which is a sugar from the exoskeletons of shellfish – and others gelatin – another animal byproduct.
With all standards and codes of safety adhered to as with any other dentist, a vegan dentist will use cellulose-based products. Oxidised regenerated cellulose is an absorbable, plant based knitted fabric and haemostatis is achieved by pressure. There are new topical hemostatic agents made from treated and sterilised cellulose that is a fast-working meshwork.
For a vegan dentist the routine overuse of antibiotics – and the resistance allegedly caused from them on the rise – is very much in their focus. Certainly there are non-vegan dentists with the same view. The estimation of 10 million deaths annually by the year 2050 in the UK alone, forms that ethical drive for pharmaceutical restraint and appropriate alternative therapies.
Vegan dentists advocate the use of more sustainable products when giving oral hygiene advice.
In the pivotal role of preventing oral disease, for the vegan dentist this extends to the mouth being a mirror for the rest of the body. Patients are asked about diet. It’s helpful for making risk assessments of caries, tooth surface loss and other dental manifestations. Ulcers and certain sensations of the tongue can be a sign of a lack of vitamin B12 and iron for instance; these and calcium and iodine are the four main nutrients vegans must be mindful of.
Over the years many child and adult patients now present with dairy intolerances and allergies and there is often concern about how to meet calcium requirements on a vegan diet.
For the record, calcium is a soil mineral that plants take up. It’s how the how-now-brown-cow gets her calcium. It’s how vegans get calcium without the acidic proteins, saturated fats and hormonal residue of dairy.
It’s easily obtained through leafy greens, seeds, fruits and fortified plant-based milks.
The European Clinical Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study showing vegans often have a higher intake of vitamins C, E and magnesium.
In the UK there is The Plant Based Health Care Professionals. It’s an expanding network of healthcare professionals from dentists to doctors, dieticians and nurses supporting wholefoods plant-based, nutrition in the prevention and treatment of chronic disease.
There’s a whole world of people making a stand about the way we treat the earth through the way we treat ourselves.
Vegan dentists strive to tread more softly on the journey.