Eating right for good oral health starts with limiting sugar – not just the sweet stuff but all refined carbs and starches, which the body digests as sugar. It’s the favorite food of harmful oral bacteria – the kind that cause tooth decay and gum disease.

But that’s only half the equation. You also need to get enough of the right vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and so on to support healthy gum tissues and natural, ongoing tooth remineralization. Research has shown, for instance, that shifting to a low carb diet and increasing certain key nutrients can improve gum health significantly, even if a person’s oral hygiene stays the same.

A recent review of the science highlights just one of the nutrients that can help improve periodontal health: omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are the especially healthy fat you get from foods like fish, flaxseed, walnuts, chia seeds, and soybeans. (Sure, it’s added to some processed foods, as well, but as we’ve noted before, getting your nutrients in their natural state, through real food, is the better option, with supplements used as necessary.)

For their study, the research team searched two major medical databases for randomized controlled trials in patients with chronic periodontitis. That’s the advanced form of gum disease, in which bone loss occurs, putting you at risk of tooth loss.

The studies had to compare the results of patients who underwent just the usual non-surgical periodontal therapy – a procedure called scaling and root planing, or SRP for short – and patients who were given both SRP and omega-3 fatty acids.

Ten studies made the cut. While three of them found no significant difference between the groups, five of them did. Those in the omega-3 groups experienced more improvement after treatment than those in the control groups. Their periodontal pockets were shallower and they had increased clinical attachment.

A meta-analysis revealed that those in the omega-3 group had .39 mm more periodontal pocket depth (PPD) reduction and .41 mm more attachment gain than those who received only SRP.

In patients with periodontitis, dietary supplementation with ω-3 [omega-3] fatty acids as an adjunct to SRP is more effective in reducing the PPD and improving the CAL [clinical attachment loss] than SRP alone. If SRP is indicated, the use of ω-3 fatty acids can be considered for a moderate extra added effect on PPD reduction and CAL gain. The strength of this recommendation is moderate.

These conclusions echo those of a similar review that was published earlier this year – as you might expect, considering that eight of the 10 trials included in the newer review were also included in the earlier on.

Nutritional improvements are something we discuss with all of our patients, including those who come to us for periodontal therapy and the array of biologic tools we have to help them improve the health of their gums, including medical grade ozone and dental lasers. It’s part of our holistic approach to patient care, where we focus on pinpointing and treating root causes so that real, sustained healing can happen, along with preventing problems from arising in the first place.

Frankly, that seems a common sense and preferable approach than acting more like a mouth mechanic, treating symptoms and fixing damage. We’d rather be your partners in health, supporting your whole body health and wellness through promoting optimal oral health.