Although gum disease is related to the level and types of oral bacteria that you have colonizing your gums, it’s also related to the body’s response to the bacteria, including a chronic immune response, called an inflammatory response. So it makes sense that in addition try trying to control the bacteria in your mouth, you might be able to moderate your gum disease by regulating your body’s response to bacteria. And one potential way to do that might be to consume an anti-inflammatory diet, one that might reduce your body’s tendency toward an inflammatory response.
Now a new study shows that this is more than just a theory: an anti-inflammatory diet can actually improve your gum disease.
Reducing Inflammatory Triggers in the Diet
Research has linked many aspects of the modern American diet with increased inflammation. The one that is most commonly cited is the excessive intake of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are commonly linked with inflammation when consumed in large quantities.
Researchers also noted that an imbalance between Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids contribute to inflammation. While primitive people may have consumed these two fatty acids in a 1:1 ratio, the modern diet may be as imbalanced as 15:1. As a result, we have a deficiency in Omega-3 fatty acids and need to increase intake to help resolve inflammation. Omega-3 has already been shown to help people with gum disease.
Vitamins C and D are also considered important to help resolve inflammation. Vitamin C is known to be vital for gum health, and poor gum health is one of the most visible signs of vitamin C deficiency (scurvy). Vitamin D is also known to help contribute to gum health and has even been shown to improve gum health when used therapeutically.
Finally, a shortage of antioxidants increases the body’s exposure to oxidative stress, including oxidative stress on the gums.
So, theoretically, a diet low in carbohydrates, while high in Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins C and D, and antioxidants should help improve oral health.
The Impact of Altered Diet
To determine the impact of these diet changes, 10 individuals were assigned to change to the recommended diet for four weeks. Another five people were assigned to act as a control group. All groups were assessed at one and two weeks before dietary change to establish a baseline. Then evaluations were performed weekly for four weeks. Researchers measured many different aspects of oral health, including plaque index, gum bleeding, probing depth, and bleeding upon probing.
They found that although plaque index remained about the same for both groups, the experimental group had all gum disease parameters cut in half after changing their diet. All the reductions were significantly different from the control group.
Should You Change Your Diet?
It’s important to note that this is a very small study, and is even described as a pilot study, showing that it’s feasible this type of change could cause improvement. But the study isn’t large enough to use as the basis for any definitive recommendations.
That being said, the types of dietary changes recommended here are unlikely to be harmful and are likely to be beneficial to your overall as well as oral health. So there’s probably no harm in making the change, as long as it’s not your only approach to treating gum disease.