Food for Thought

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Something to chew on
Periodontitis is a leading cause of tooth loss in adults – around 30% have it. It’s a serious infection that destroys the soft bone and tissue that support your teeth but it is both treatable and preventable. It’s long been known that daily brushing and flossing and regular professional cleaning can greatly reduce chances of developing gum disease. Findings from the first study to look at wholegrain intake in conjunction with periodontitis risk (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2006;83:1395-400) suggest that eating at least 4 servings of wholegrains a day may reduce the likelihood of periodontitis in healthy people possibly by improving their insulin sensitivity suggest the authors. And although it’s still early days, the news is encouraging.

In a prospective study, researchers from McMaster University in Canada tracked more than 34,000 healthy men (those with diabetes, heart disease or a history of stroke were excluded) aged 40–75 years at the start of the study over 14 years. The men eating the most wholegrain foods (around 3 or more servings a day) including brown rice, dark breads, oats, whole grain breakfast cereals, popcorn, wheatgerm, bran and other grains were 23 per cent less likely to develop periodontitis than those who ate less than one serving a day. Although they also found that the men who ate the most cereal fibre were less likely to develop gum disease, they found no link between total dietary fibre and periodontitis risk.

As we have said before, there are countless reasons to include more whole cereal grains in your diet, but it’s hard to go past the fact that you are getting all the benefits of their vitamins, minerals, protein, dietary fibre and protective anti-oxidants. Many wholegrain foods (but not all) also have a low or moderate GI slowing the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates from the gut, keeping blood glucose levels on an even keel. There are a number of studies that show that managing blood glucose levels reduces the risk of periodontitis in people with diabetes, so it may well be that lower blood glucose levels will reduce the risk of periodontitis in non-diabetics.

Take steps to prevent gum disease

  • Brush your teeth twice a day and floss once a day.
  • Visit your dentist every six months for a check up and clean to remove the build-up of tartar from areas your brush can’t reach.
  • Eat a healthy diet including plenty of low GI wholegrains – at least 4 servings a day.
  • If you have diabetes, manage your blood glucose levels.
  • Do not smoke – people who smoke are four times more likely to develop gum disease than people who don’t.