The oral health industry is not just about providing dental care. Dentists and hygienists do much more than clean the patient’s teeth and perform root canals. They must teach their patients to practice healthy habits to keep proper oral health. Of course, this includes brushing and flossing, but it also includes eating healthy. Over the decades, it’s been stressed that high sugar intake leads to cavities and poor dental health. But there’s more!
When individuals think about diet, they often think about how the foods affect their whole body, except their mouths. However, digestion starts in one’s mouth. Diet directly impacts everyone’s oral health. When you eat well, your teeth and gums stay healthy. When you eat poorly, your teeth and gums suffer, just like the rest of your body.
For ages, researchers have tried to understand the importance of diet on overall health. Recently, a new study examined the effects a diet has on reducing bacterial species that lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Caries, known as tooth decay, and periodontal, known as gum disease, can both lead to tooth loss if the cases are severe enough. To ensure patients have proper dental health, dentists and other healthcare professionals need to know how diet affects the oral biome.
Researchers created two groups of study participants to determine how certain diets lead to different population levels of various bacterial species. Patients were recruited who had diets high in carbohydrates. From there, patients were split into a control group and a healthy diet group. The control group kept their carb-heavy diet. The healthy diet group received dietary advice and counseling which they were to follow.
The Healthy Oral Diet
Participants were told to follow a low carb diet of fewer than 130 grams of carbohydrates per day. Specifically, they had to reduce sweetened beverages & meals, rice, flour-containing food, and potatoes. Fruits and vegetables were not limited. Furthermore, they had to increase their intake of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C, vitamin D, and antioxidants from berries, tea, coffee, or other sources.
Patients who followed the healthy diet had significant changes in populations of various bacterial strains. Researchers saw a decrease in Streptococcus mitis, Granulicatella adiacens, Actinomyces spp., and Fusobacterium spp.
With the reduction in carbohydrates, researchers concluded these species rely on carbs for food. Some of these strains produce acid. Thus, when the number of bacteria decreased, less acid would be produced in the mouth. This is believed to reduce the risk of tooth decay.
An increased intake in omega-3 fatty acids and various vitamins and antioxidants act as anti-inflammatory components, which reduces the available food for pathogenic bacteria.
Following a diet low in carbohydrates, high in antioxidants, fiber, vitamins C and D, omega-3 fatty acids can lead to improved oral health. This diet decreases the likelihood of overproduction of bacteria that leads to periodontal and caries.