Nutritional Therapist Natasha Wilcock shares her top round-up of nutritional strategies to aid oral health.
Ongoing research indicates that the prevention and addressing of nutritional deficiencies may improve outcomes in dental diseases such as gingivitis, periodontitis and tooth decay. Inflammation in the oral tissues has been shown to be a factor in chronic illness such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s and pregnancy complications. Here are several dietary factors that are increasingly being studied for their benefits in improving oral health.
Omega 3 essential fatty acids*
Omega 3 oils are well studied for their ability to reduce inflammation. A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association in 2010 summarises, ‘we found that Omega-3 intake, particularly DHA and EPA, is inversely associated with periodontitis in the US population. To date, the treatment of periodontitis has primarily involved mechanical cleaning and local antibiotic application. Thus, a dietary therapy, if effective, might be a less expensive and safer method for the prevention and treatment of periodontitis.’
Best source of Omega 3: Oily fish such as mackerel, salmon and sardines or a fish oil supplement.
Cautions: Those who are on blood thinning medication should consult their doctor before supplementing with fish oils.
A review by the University of Washington, published in 2012 in Nutrition Reviews, looked at 24 controlled clinical trials on around 3,000 children. According to Dr Michael Holick, Professor of Medicine at the Boston University Medical Centre, ‘the findings from the University of Washington reaffirm the importance of vitamin D for dental health.’ He adds, ‘children who are vitamin D deficient have poor and delayed teeth eruption and are prone to dental caries.’
Considering that a recent survey in the UK showed that more than 50% of the adult population have insufficient levels of Vitamin D, it may well be worth asking pregnant women if they have had their vitamin D levels checked by their doctor.
Best source of Vitamin D: In the UK, we are unable to synthesise Vitamin D from the sun’s rays from the end of October through to March. Very small amounts of vitamin D can be found in limited foods such as eggs, cheese and cow’s liver, so Vitamin D is one deficiency where supplementation is routinely advised.
Widely acknowledged for its potential health benefits, green tea has yet again come to the attention of researchers, but this time for its benefits to our teeth and gums. A study published in The Journal of Periodontology found that those who regularly drank green tea had superior periodontal health compared to those who drank less. Again, the reasons behind this are likely connected to the anti-inflammatory effects of green tea with in vitro studies having shown that green tea polyphenols inhibit the growth and cellular adherence of periodontal pathogens and their production of virulence factors.
Best source of green tea: The tea itself, but supplements are available as an alternative if green tea consumption is not possible.
Other exciting areas of research include probiotics, with studies looking at using specific bacteria to alter the bacterial ecology of the mouth. Also of interest is the use of antioxidants, and their ability to decrease inflammation by reducing oxidative stress in the body.
With all this in mind, it leads us to a natural conclusion of the importance that diet can have in the prevention and treatment of oral disease.
* J Am Diet Assoc. 2010 Nov; 110(11): 1669–1675.
** Pearce SH, Cheetham TD; Diagnosis and management of vitamin D deficiency. BMJ. 2010 Jan 11;340:b5664. doi: 10.1136/bmj.b5664.
*** Mitoshi Kushiyama, Yoshihiro Shimazaki, Masatoshi Murakami, and Yoshihisa Yamashita; Relationship Between Intake of Green Tea and Periodontal Disease
Journal of Periodontology, March 2009, Vol. 80, No. 3 , Pages 372-377 (doi: 10.1902/jop.2009.080510)