Many of our patients want to know ‘what else’ they can do to help with their healing. Usually this is asked along the lines of “Isn’t there just a pill that I can take, Doc?” The article below is a terrific recommendation of what patients can do, and how to have a discussion with them regarding their overall health and diet. I’m finding as all we baby boomers are getting older, we aren’t going gracefully- we are fighting it! When my patients lose weight, stop smoking, and get serious about regular exercise, their oral health improves too.
Focus of anti-inflammatory diet differs from that of a traditional diet
By Kris Dowling, RDH, BA
When it comes to nutrition, I’ve found the subject to be almost as touchy as discussing politics or religion. People can be
very dogmatic in their beliefs with regard to what they eat and why. Giving advice or stating an opinion surrounding their
choices can be a bad idea. There are so many diet and nutrition books on the market that its easy to become an “expert” in
whatever one believes. However, there are certain things we, as dental professionals, can offer our patients regarding
Periodontal disease, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and autoimmune diseases (to name a few), have one
common denominator: inflammation. I strongly suspect, with continued research, there will be many more connections
between inflammation and disease. To say that “inflammation” is the cause of a particular disease is not digging deep
enough. What if we ask, “What is the cause of the inflammation?”
It’s been known for many years that nutrition plays a major part in the recommendations for treating heart disease and
diabetes, decreasing salt and sugar come to mind first, but that’s only the beginning. There are a multitude of books written
on how nutrition affects these two big-league diseases, and physicians usually guide their patient’s to this information. So, I
wonder, are dental professionals doing a disservice by not recommending a type of anti-inflammatory diet to our patients
with periodontal disease? Maybe.
What exactly is an “anti-inflammatory” diet? Well, it isn’t a traditional “diet” in the sense that it’s focused on weight loss;
rather, its focus is on taming the internal inflammation of our blood, lymph, organs, etc. It actually helps out our bodies pH
balance, but thats another article for another time.
Dental professionals are usually great at educating their patients on gum disease; the probable cause, its effect on oral
health, and how to best prevent continued tissue/bone destruction. But what if we broadened our view of “oral health”, not
just in saying there is an oral-systemic link, but acknowledging that there isn’t really a need for that distinction because the
body is a complete system, always has been, always will be. I have yet to see a body walking around without it’s head. The
blood that circulates through the heart also circulates through the gingival tissues, brain, etc. Ok, you get the point. Now,
back to that diet I was talking about.
In a nutshell, an anti inflammatory diet includes increasing vegetables and fruits, decreasing transfats and unhealthy
saturated fats, obtaining high quality Omega 3 oils, reducing/eliminating refined foods/high sugar foods,
decreasing/eliminating gluten, and perhaps dairy, choosing lean sources of protein, increasing dietary fiber and water, and
including spices such as ginger, curry, and turmeric which have excellent inflammation reducing properties.
Our patients with periodontal disease may already feel as if they’re fighting a battle to improve their oral condition, so we
don’t want to overwhelm them by telling them they have to make even more changes. We can, however, discuss the role of
inflammation with regards to their oral health, and educate them as to how inflammation travels and affects our bodies as a
whole. We can ask our patients if they’d like to hear about foods that decrease inflammation, and honor their choice. The
last thing anyone wants is to feel lectured to. It may be nice to have a small sheet of paper with information on food choices
printed out on it for them to read later if they’d prefer.
For the dogmatic, self-experts on nutrition in our dental chairs, it is probably best (while working in their mouths), to share a
story about someone who has changed the way they eat and has seen some remarkable improvements in their oral health,
only if its true of course. In my clinical work as a dental hygienist, my success stories surrounding dietary changes and oral
health improvement are stacking up.