In recent years, a lot more attention has been given to our diets when it comes to the development of certain diseases. A study published last week in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology showed that participants who followed a plant-based diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and various vitamins showed significantly less gingival bleeding, and greater Vitamin D and weight loss. Explore the details of this study and the ramifications for all dentists.
The Power of Our Diet
It’s easy to look to a miracle drug to cure our ailments, but the truth is, our health soars or deteriorates depending on what we eat each day. People may like to defend their dietary choices by saying things like “the foods that are good for you change all the time” or “calories in, calories out!”, but nothing could be further from the truth.
- Foods contain vitamins, fatty acids, and different combinations of nutrients you need.
- Just because you’re full, doesn’t mean you’re eating the best foods for your body.
- Remember that many of our dietary habits stem from childhood and may be harmful.
Not all Calorie Sources are Equal
An argument many people will make when defending their dietary choices is “calories in, calories out” implying that all foods are created the same and that they’ll provide the same results based on the caloric intake. This is extremely untrue for obvious reasons– consider this example: A can of soda has 200 calories, and a chicken and veggie bowl has 500. If someone ate 2000 calories-worth of each for a month, who do you think would have better health?
The New Study: Plant-based Diet Helps Control Inflammation
For this study that examined a plant-based diet and its effects on gum disease, 30 patients who already had gingivitis were randomly separated into an experimental and a control group. While all participants were told to stop their flossing efforts, they were fed different diets.
Diet of the Control Group
The control group was asked to stick to a typical Western diet, which is almost always high in animal fats and processed carbohydrates with minimal fresh fruits and veggies.
Diet of the Experimental Group
The experimental group on the other hand, adapted to a mostly plant-based diet that was low in processed carbohydrates and animal fats, but high in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, fiber, and various vitamins including C and D.
Results of the Study
After just four weeks on the plant-based diet, the participants in the experimental group showed reduced inflammation, less bleeding in their gums, and a greater amount of Vitamin D. While it didn’t cure the disease entirely, it showed beyond a doubt that our dietary choices can reduce the effects of gingivitis and if followed long term, may prevent it entirely.
Key to Success: Reducing Inflammation
Although not widely understood, inflammation is the key factor behind many health problems, including your dental health. The typical Western diet is high in animal products and processed carbohydrates, both of which cause inflammation throughout the cells in our body. Even if we don’t notice it, inflammation is the precursor for many infections and diseases, including gingivitis.
Key Takeaway for Dentists
This study is a gamechanger for the way dentists should approach patients who suffer from gum disease and other dental problems. By first asking about the patient’s diet, doctors who treat patients for gum disease, like Dr. Napolitano in Staten Island, NY, will gain greater insight as to the source of their dental problems. By advising patients to follow a more nutrient-rich diet and avoid foods that cause inflammation, dentists can influence the future health of their patients.
Considering a Dietary Change?
Whether you want to lose weight, lower blood pressure, or eliminate inflammation to stave off gum disease, making the right dietary change can make it happen. Although you don’t have to go completely vegan, there’s no doubt that a diet higher in fresh fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and legumes can make a massive impact on your overall health. If you’ve been following the same diet your whole life, then introducing new plant-based foods gradually is a realistic way to make it healthier.
Already Have Gingivitis? Don’t Wait to Pursue Treatment!
Although the patients in this experiment already had gingivitis and were asked to stop flossing, that’s not the ideal course of action if you have gingivitis. If you notice red, swelling gums that are irritable to the touch, this may be gingivitis, and it’s vital to see a dentist that treats periodontal issues, like Dr. Kellye Rice near Nashville, TN, as soon as possible.
When It Comes to Our Health, We Are What We Eat
With yet another study confirming the link between our diet and the diseases we develop, there’s more certainty than ever that the food we eat directly affects our health. While this particular study was aimed at gum disease, plant-based foods reduce inflammation, which is the catalyst for diseases throughout your body. If you feel a need to improve your dental or overall health, then the best change you can make begins with what you decide to eat each day.