New Study Shows Eating Fiber Helps Improve Inflammation Related To Gum Disease
At some point we've likely all been scolded by a dentist to cool it on the sugar intake (candy, soda, fruit juices, etc.). Because too much sugar equals cavities, right? Yep. So what you eat clearly plays a role in oral health. As it turns out, eating more fiber may protect your gums.
The health of your teeth is highly influenced by lifestyle, and this review sheds much-needed light on how what you eat influences an all too common (and preventable) chronic condition.
Let's dive in.
What did the study find?
A total of six studies were included in this larger analysis. Five of them were experiments where people were given more fiber by the researchers to eat, and one study when people were told to eat a high-fiber diet for one or two months.
Researchers wanted to see if there was a connection between fiber intake and measures of inflammation related to gum disease.
And there sure was.
Eating more fiber (which was considered to be between 22 and 30 grams daily in these studies) improved specific markers that measure the severity of gum disease such as:
- Less swelling of the gums
- Less plaque buildup
- Better support from the tissues and fiber that hold teeth in place
And overall, eating more fiber was found to significantly counter the inflammatory effects of periodontal disease.
Why is fiber beneficial for oral health?
There are a few reasons why fiber may be good for your gums.
- It increases saliva production: Saliva contains digestive enzymes that start breaking sugars down in your mouth before you even swallow. Saliva also starts to neutralize acidic foods. Both sugary and acidic foods aren't ideal for oral health.
- You consume less sugar: Fibrous foods either don't have a lot of free sugars (like broccoli for example) or their bulky, nondigestible properties help counter the sugars in the food (like in fruit). Foods that tend to have lots of sugar and no fiber (namely processed, packaged foods) have been linked to cavities.
- It may nurture your oral microbiome: Just as there's a gut microbiome, the mouth also plays home to a variety of microorganisms. Sugar tends to throw that microbial balance off by feeding harmful bacteria 3that produce compounds that lead to tooth decay. Fiber may help maintain a desirable oral microbiome4 (but there's limited human research on this).
How to get more fiber
So there's a lot of room for improvement. To help put that into context, here's how much fiber you can expect from some of the most fiber-rich foods out there.
In general, it's best to fill your plate for each meal with whole-unprocessed foods (like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes) to up your fiber count. You can also incorporate a fiber supplement for extra support.
It's exciting to see more research on the connection between oral health and nutrition because it's about time for more granular recommendations than eat less sugar. This new study offers one of the most comprehensive looks yet at the role of fiber in helping to alleviate gum-related inflammation.
Molly Knudsen, M.S., RDN is a Registered Dietician Nutritionist and mindbodygreen's supplements editor. She holds a bachelor’s degree in nutrition from Texas Christian University and a master’s in nutrition interventions, communication, and behavior change from Tufts University. She lives in Boston, Massachusetts and enjoys connecting people to the food they eat and how it influences health and wellbeing.