What I Learned About Nutrition and Periodontal Disease

Back in April I finished my first semester back in school.  I decided to go back to pursue my bachelor’s in food and nutrition and my master’s in human nutrition.  This is something that I had thought about for a very long time but was never ready to make the commitment until this past year.  One of the classes I had to take this semester was an English Composition class… I somehow weaseled my way out of taking the second part of that course during my first two degrees.  While skeptical, I was pleasantly surprised at what this course had to offer. The course was structured around a research topic of your choosing and the assignments all supported doing research on this topic.  I chose to research the relationship between high-sugar diets and gingival inflammation (gingivitis, periodontal disease aka gum disease, etc.). Shocking, coming from the dental hygienist.  Throughout this process I got to dig into numerous different studies done on this topic, as well as to construct a compelling argument on my stance on the topic.  Which, by the way, wound up being that there needs to be more research in this area to determine the true relationship between high-sugar diets and gingival inflammation.

What I learned throughout this process was that while there are some studies done on this subject, many of them had questionable screening techniques, failed to eliminate other dietary changes that could influence inflammation, or were done on exceedingly small sample sizes.  For example, two of the studies that I reviewed clearly noted a decrease in gingival inflammation (which can lead to periodontal disease) with a diet that contains little to no refined sugar, but these studies also incorporated many other beneficial foods and nutrients at the same time.  So, what is to say that the decrease in sugar is what caused less inflammation as pose to, perhaps an increase in omega 3’s or vitamin C?  Some of the other studies only evaluated half of the mouth for the presence of inflammation, or the dietary questionnaires that were used to evaluate consumption of high-sugar foods left out many other nutritional factors that could play a role.  However, all of the research clearly pointed out that high-sugar diets contribute to NUMEROUS systemic inflammatory disease (heart disease, diabetes, etc.). I will not bore you with all of the gory details of my research, but that was a quick overview of what I discovered.

Also note that when I say “high-sugar diets” I am really referring to diets high in added or refined sugars (if I lost you here, go check out my blog Sugar is Sugar is Sugar…or is it?).  I am not referring to diets high in sugars from fruits, vegetables, etc. 

What am I getting at here?  While I am undoubtedly sure that high-sugar diets can lead to gingival inflammation, I unfortunately was not able to draw that immediate conclusion off of the research that I found.  There is a good baseline of information on this topic, but I concluded that more research could be done that provides more conclusive results.  I know that this topic is a little more comprehensive than the things I normally spout off about, but my point is, is that sometimes it can be hard to remove your own personal bias and really break information down to understand what is being presented.  I think that we could all take a minute to think about this and how you can relate it to the news and articles that we read every day.  The world is full of misinformation these days.  We would all be doing ourselves a favor if we took some time to really dig into the information that we find.  Do not be afraid to view things from a different perspective and be prepared to find the answer that you were NOT looking for.  This process has taught me a lot, and while I fully intend to continue the path to pursue more information on how nutrition affects periodontal disease, these skills are very transferrable, and we should all be more open minded and willing to take the time to research the things that are important to us.  Remember, keep an open mind😊

Also, if anybody is dying to read my real research (not my blogger friendly version), let me know… and don’t worry, I won’t hold my breath on that one!

References:

Baumgartner, Stefan, et al. “The Impact of the Stone Age Diet on Gingival Conditions in

the Absence of.  Oral Hygiene.” Journal of Periodontology, vol. 80, no. 5, Jan. 2009, pp. 759–768. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1902/jop.2009.080376.

Lula, Estevam C. O., et al. “Added Sugars and Periodontal Disease in Young Adults: An

Analysis of NHANES III Data.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 100, no. 4, Oct. 2014, p. 1182. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edb&AN=98498425&site=eds-live&scope=site. 

Martinon, Prescilla, et al. “Nutrition as a Key Modifiable Factor for Periodontitis and Main             

Chronic Diseases.” Journal of Clinical Medicine, vol. 10, no. 2, Jan. 2021, p. . EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edb&AN=148248196&site=eds-live&scope=site. 

Moreira, Ana R., et al. “Higher Sugar Intake Is Associated with Periodontal Disease in

Adolescents.” Clinical Oral Investigations, vol. 25, no. 3, Mar. 2021, pp. 983–991., doi:10.1007/s00784-020-03387-1. Accessed on 21 February 2021.

Rajaram, Savan, et al. “Influence of a Low-Carbohydrate and Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids,

Ascorbic Acid, Antioxidants, and Fiber Diet on Clinical Outcomes in Patients with Chronic Gingivitis: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Journal of International Society of Preventive and Community Dentistry, vol. 11, no. 1, Jan. 2021, p. 58. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsgao&AN=edsgcl.650411878&site=eds-live&scope=site. 

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