Fish fights gum disease

Nov. 8, 2010
A new study shows a diet full of fish and nuts goes a long way to protect people from gum disease.

A diet full of fish and nuts goes a long way to protect people from gum disease — a new study has shown.
The research has suggested that polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), found in foods such as fatty fish and nuts, will help keep people's smiles healthy as it has been shown to help lower the risks of gum disease and periodontitis.

The research examined the diet of 182 adults between 1999 and 2004, and found that those who consumed the highest amounts of fatty acids were a 30% less likely to develop gum disease and 20% less likely to develop periodontitis (severe gum disease).

Lead researcher of the study, Dr. Asghar Z. Naqvi of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre in Boston, said: "We found that n-3 fatty acid intake, particularly docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are inversely associated with periodontitis in the US population."

"To date, the treatment of periodontitis has primarily involved mechanical cleaning and local antibiotic application. A dietary therapy, if effective, might be a less expensive and safer method for the prevention and treatment of periodontitis."

Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr. Nigel Carter, said: "Most people suffer from gum disease at some point in their life. What people tend not to realise is that it can actually lead to tooth loss if left untreated, and in this day and age, most people should be able to keep all their teeth for life.

"This study shows that a small and relatively easy change in people's diet can massively improve the condition of their teeth and gums, which in turn can improve their overall well-being."

The study was published in the November issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
Gum disease is caused by plaque (the film of bacteria that forms on the surface of the teeth). To prevent and treat gum disease, all the plaque must be removed from the teeth every day by brushing twice a day and cleaning in between teeth with interdental brushes or floss.

Inflammation and soreness of the gums is one of the first signs of gum disease, and often gums bleed when they are brushed during cleaning. Over time gum disease becomes more severe and can impact the tissues supporting the teeth. The bone anchoring the teeth in the jaw is lost and the teeth become loose. If not treated, this can lead to teeth eventually falling out. As gum disease progresses to periodontal disease, there may be no apparent symptoms. This is why regular visits to the dentist or hygienist for regular checkups and cleaning are so important.

To speak to an expert about gum disease and how to treat it, contact the National Dental Helpline on 0845 063 1188. Staffed by qualified dental nurses and oral health educators, the helpline offers free, confidential and independent advice and information. Contact the helpline between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday to Friday, or alternatively e-mail the helpline with any oral health query at [email protected].

Naqvi et al. n-3 Fatty Acids and Periodontitis in US Adult. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Nov. 2010; 110(11):1589-1780.

The British Dental Health Foundation is the UK's leading oral health charity, with a 39-year track record of providing public information and influencing government policy. It maintains a free consumer advice service, an impartial and objective product accreditation scheme, publishes and distributes a wide range of literature for the profession and consumers, and runs National Smile Month each May, to promote greater awareness of the benefits of better oral health.

A series of "Tell Me About. ..." leaflets covering topics such as caring for my teeth, gum disease, and diet are also available.

The Foundation's Web site can be found at

British Dental Health Foundation, Smile House 2 East Union Street, Rugby, . CV22 6AJ United Kingdom