With 2016 now a memory, you might be thinking of improvements to make in this new year. And if one of those involves your oral health, we’ve got some good news for you. You may be able to do wonders for your mouth with just one lifestyle change.
Now, we’ve all been told at one time or another that sugar leads to tooth decay. We’ve all also heard that a healthful diet supports oral and systemic health alike. But far fewer are told how eating right can actually reverse conditions like gum disease. But that’s what research has shown, from the work of the great Dr. Weston Price through contemporary studies published in peer-reviewed journals.
Just this past July, BMC Oral Health published a small but powerful study showing the impact of diet on periodontal inflammation – a hallmark of gum disease, when the gums appear red and puffy. For four weeks, test group participants followed a diet that was low in carbs and rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins C and D, and fiber. A control group followed their normal eating habits. By the end, although plaque values remained constant across both groups, those who ate the “oral health optimized diet” improved greatly with respect to inflammation.
All inflammatory parameters decreased in the experimental group to approximately half that of the baseline values. This reduction was significantly different compared to that of the control group.
This builds on previous research, such as a 2009 study in the Journal of Periodontology, which looked at “The impact of the Stone Age diet on gingival conditions in the absence of oral hygiene.” (“Gingiva” is the clinical term for the gums.) Here, participants followed a paleo-type diet for four weeks and didn’t brush their teeth or otherwise follow normal hygiene habits. The results showed that while plaque levels increased, tongue bacterial samples decreased and gum disease symptoms improved.
The difference-maker? A lack of refined sugar and hyper-processed foods.
Naturally, such dietary shifts have a whole-body impact, as well. This is perhaps especially pertinent to those who are obese, as research shows a solid link between obesity and higher levels of periodontal pathogens.
Obesity appears to participate in the multifactorial phenomenon of causality of periodontitis [severe gum disease] through the increased production of reactive oxygen species. The possible causal relationship between obesity and periodontitis and potential underlying biological mechanisms remain to be established; however, the adipose tissue actively secretes a variety of cytokines and hormones that are involved in inflammatory processes, pointing toward similar pathways involved in the pathophysiology of obesity, periodontitis and related inflammatory diseases.
Obesity is a multiple-risk-factor syndrome that has both overall and oral health implications that can be combated with a diet that eliminates sugars and processed grains. Adding nutrient-dense foods to you diet is proven to promote good digestion, reduce the symptoms of gum disease, and support better overall well-being. The ideal is an anti-inflammatory diet. (Need help getting started? Check out this or this or this.)
This goal goes beyond the food on your plate. The message is bigger than “sugar is bad.” A healthy diet will always be vital to your body’s ability to function properly. That means quitting the sugar and hyper-processed foods, replacing them with lots of fresh veg, healthy fats, and nutrient-dense whole foods – real foods, the food you were born to eat.
Image by Bradley Davis, via Flickr