It’s an essential principle of holistic dentistry that your diet is one of the biggest influences on your oral health. Most of the time, we talk about foods that are associated with increased risks, such as fruit juices or sugary snacks. But it’s also important to understand that some foods could have a protective effect on your oral health.

Yogurt is one of the foods that is often cited as a protective addition to your diet. Now a new study confirms that eating more yogurt can actually reduce your risk of gum disease.

Yogurt could help lower gum disease risk

A Large, Observational Study

The data in this study came from a 2009 Korean survey of more than 6000 individuals about their dietary and health habits, the Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (KNHANES).

For this survey, trained nutritionists visited Koreans in their homes and collected data on diet, socioeconomic variables, oral hygiene habits, smoking, and more. Researchers also conducted a partial dental exam to check subjects for gum disease. They evaluated ten teeth in each subject’s mouth, and confirmed gum disease whenever they found a pocket of depth greater than 3.5 mm (a little over ⅛ inch).

After analyzing the data, researchers found that people who consumed yogurt once a week or more had an 18% lower risk of developing gum disease.

What Provides the Benefit?

Having established a correlation, it’s important to consider what might be the mechanism of the the lower gum disease risk. One potential source of the protective effect is calcium intake. Although most people know that calcium is beneficial for teeth, fewer people understand its benefits for gum tissue. But it has been shown that people who consume more calcium can protect themselves from gum disease. It’s even been shown that calcium supplementation can reduce gum disease markers.

But in this case, researchers don’t think it’s the calcium. To check that hypothesis, they also compared people according to their milk and overall calcium consumption. They found that neither a higher intake of milk nor a higher intake of calcium overall was associated with a lower risk of gum disease in this population.

Given that, it seems likely that it’s the active cultures in yogurt that protect your teeth against gum disease.

Yogurt Helps Maintain a Healthy Oral Microbiome

One of the keys to holistic dentistry is maintaining a healthy oral microbiome. It’s important to remember that your mouth is like an ecosystem that is full of many different types of microorganisms. Some of them are beneficial, some harmless, and others dangerous. The influx of sugar and other simple carbohydrates can cause the dangerous microorganisms to thrive, similar to the way dumping phosphates into a lake creates an algal bloom. In both cases, the event is destructive to the overall balance and health of the ecosystem. It’s not just food: many environmental toxins can damage your oral microbiome.

But consuming foods like yogurt, which contains healthy bacteria and suppresses unhealthy bacteria, can help keep your oral microbiome healthy. This, in turn, protects you from gum disease, cavities, and other health problems, which means fewer fillings, faster checkups, and improved overall health.

If you want to learn more about dietary changes you can make to maintain a healthy oral microbiome, please call (585) 244-3337 today for an appointment with a Rochester holistic dentist at Contemporary Dentistry.