Widening the nutrition conversation – Kimberley Lloyd- Rees – Dental Hygiene and Therapy

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  Posted by: Dental Design      24th September 2019

A study recently published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontologylooked at the impact of an anti-inflammatory diet on gingivitis.[i]As a result of a randomised controlled trial, an ‘experimental’ group (who switched to a diet low in animal proteins and processed carbs, but high in plant nitrates, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and vitamin D) showed an improvement in gingival health, compared to the ‘control’ group, who made no changes.

Bringing a discussion of nutrition and how to optimise nutrition for good dental health to appointments is not a new concept for practitioners committed to a preventive approach. Talking to patients about reducing their consumption of sugary snacks and drinks should form part of every patient’s visit to the dentist, dental hygienist or dental therapist. This latest study is interesting, though, as its focus is on what you shoulddo, rather than what you shouldn’t. An anti-inflammatory diet that includes nuts, seeds and lean protein alongside plenty of fruit and veg, is said to have other long-term health benefits associated with reducing and controlling chronic inflammation. Major diseases and conditions linked to chronic inflammation include arthritis, diabetes, depression and some cancers.[ii]Now, we have evidence that this diet can naturally reduce gingival bleeding (in the study, participants were requested to stop cleaning interdentally for the duration of the trial). It should also be noted that although primarily plant-based, an anti-inflammatory diet can include oily, fatty fish. 

In the media, any conversations about dental health/nutrition are focused on sugar and ways to reduce or eliminate it from our diets. The UK’s Sugar Tax supports this focus, with high-sugar drinks costing more since 2018 in an attempt to curb rising decay as well as obesity. We can argue that patients have ‘always’ known that sugar is bad news for teeth, but not how detrimental it can be to general health. It wasn’t that long ago when sugary snacks were advertised with campaigns boasting their energy-giving properties. It was OK for mothers to give their children a sweet, chocolate snack after school, the adverts said, as it would give them a boost which would keep them going until dinner time. It was only when rising levels of obesity forced food companies to change their advertising, did we see a shift away from ‘energy’ and towards ‘pleasure’. There are also now rules that prohibit ads for junk food appearing alongside children’s television programmes.[iii]In the UK, we still eat lots of sugary snacks and drinks, though, and children are consuming more than twice as much sugar as they should.[iv]Manufacturers are reducing sugar content to avoid the levy, but sugary food and drinks can still be purchased cheaply, especially if a consumer avoids branded products.

Back to the study that links an anti-inflammatory diet to reduced gingivitis, this is a new angle for practitioners who want to motivate patients to eat better. It also ties in with work published in The Lancet, that looked at diets worldwide and which country’s eating habits were shortening the most lives.[v]It found that high-salt diets shortened the highest number of lives and diets containing “low levels of nuts, seeds, vegetables, omega-3 from seafood and fibre” were also “dangerous” for long-term health. These are key components of an anti-inflammatory diet.

Dental practitioners must widen the nutrition conversation. Patients know sugar is bad for them and although they may be more aware of just howbad, we need to promote positive food choices that leave little appetite for junk – an anti-inflammatory diet is full of nutrient-rich food that will also leave them feeling fuller for longer.

Alongside a solid daily cleaning routine, using high-quality products such as TANDEX brushes and adjunctive products for cleaning teeth and gums, we can motivate patients better by refocusing our message. They know the bad news, let’s tell them the good stuff, for supporting their optimal dental and general good health. 


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[i]Woelber JP, Gärtner M, Breuninger L, Anderson A, König D, Hellwig E, Al‐Ahmad A, Vach K, Dötsch A, Ratka‐Krüger P, Tennert C. The influence of an anti‐inflammatory diet on gingivitis. A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Clinical Periodontology. 2019 Apr; 46 (4): 481-90.

[ii]Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School. Foods that fight inflammation. Published 7 November, 2018. Link: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/foods-that-fight-inflammation(accessed June 2019).

[iii]NHS news. Does TV and internet advertising feed children’s junk food habits? 17 October, 2018. Link: https://www.nhs.uk/news/pregnancy-and-child/does-tv-and-internet-advertising-feed-childrens-junk-food-habits/(accessed June 2019).

[iv]BBC. Children in England consuming ‘twice as much sugar as recommended’, 15 June 2018. Link: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-44483081(accessed June 2019).

[v]Afshin A, Sur PJ, Fay KA, Cornaby L, Ferrara G, Salama JS, Mullany EC, Abate KH, Abbafati C, Abebe Z, Afarideh M. Health effects of dietary risks in 195 countries, 1990–2017: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017. The Lancet.2019 Apr 4.


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