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Can Dietary Changes Reverse Periodontal Disease?

If you've been told you have inflammation of the gums or even periodontal disease, we have some good news for you.  Simple dietary changes may help to reverse this disease.

A little background first:  there are two types of gum disease: gingivitis and periodontitis.

 Gingivitis is the swelling of the gums that is caused by the accumulation of bacteria along the gum line. If the gingivitis is left untreated, it leads to periodontitis. Symptoms of periodontal disease include receding gums, inflammation along the gum line, pain, and sensitivity to changes in temperature.  Eventually this disease can lead to bone and tooth loss. 

Almost 50 percent of adults over age 30 in the United States have some form of periodontal (gum) disease based on findings by the

Center of Disease Control and Prevention

.

It's clear that that sugar leads to tooth decay, and that a healthful diet supports oral and systemic health alike.   What's new is that research is has demonstrated that eating certain foods can actually

reverse

conditions like periodontal (gum) disease.   It makes sense - a

periodontal lesion is essentially a wound, and certain nutrients must be available for optimal wound healing.   Further,  periodontal disease, like heart disease or rheumatoid arthritis, is an inflammatory condition

and some food studies have shown that certain foods decrease inflammation. 

Here's what two recent studies on oral inflammation have shown: 

Just this past July,

BMC Oral Health

published a small

study

demonstrating the impact of diet on periodontal inflammation – a hallmark of gum disease – where 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, those who ate the “oral health optimized diet” improved greatly with respect to inflammation.  In fact, the inflammation in the experimental group decreased to approximately

half

that of the baseline values.  These changes were not noted in the control group, which did not follow the "oral health optimized diet."

This builds on

a 2009 study

in the

Journal of Periodontology

, which looked at “The impact of the Stone Age diet on gingival condition 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.  A paleo-type diet includes

anything we could hunt or find – meats, fish, nuts, leafy greens, fresh vegetables, and seeds.

The results showed that those following the paleo-type diet had a decrease in tongue bacteria and gum disease symptoms improved.

What made the difference?

In both studies, the researchers believe the lack of refined sugar and hyper-processed foods led to the decreased inflammation.

These are just the latest in a growing body of research connecting the dots between our oral health and diet.  Our message to our patients with periodontal disease is that eating healthier may, in a relatively short amount of time, lead to a decrease in gum inflammation and a slowing or even stopping of the progression of the disease.   Because many people with periodontal disease may be at risk for other inflammatory conditions, such as heart disease, these simple dietary changes may have an even greater impact on their overall health.   

Just to be perfectly clear - dietary changes are NOT an alternative to the

ongoing treatment of periodontal disease

.    It's vital that we continue to monitor and provide you with care.   If you have periodontal disease, we invite you consider these dietary changes as a

complement

to the oral therapy that you receive in the dental office and the recommended oral hygiene regiment we advise you follow at home.    Questions?  Concerns?  Give our friendly staff a

call

at 919 755 3450 or schedule

online

.   

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