Every day more and more discoveries are being made that emphasis a simple truth: your diet matters. Whether it’s new links between sugar consumption and heart disease, or how the amount of fiber you consumer could affect your gut’s microbiome, eating the right kinds of foods may affect our health more than anything else. If this much is true, then it seems logical that it could also affect our oral health.
Often the studies that get coverage in current news cycles are those that serve as a warning — avoid sugar, hydrogenated oils, etc. — but a recent study offers a little hope if you’re trying to avoid gum disease. Considering that an estimated 47.2 percent of adults in America have gum disease, which can significantly increase your chances of heart attack, stroke, and even weight gain, that doesn’t seem like a bad thing.
Analyzing data sets from a large, observation study conducted in Korea — Korean National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (KNHANES) — scientist found that those who consumed yogurt once a week or more had an 18% lower risk of gum disease. To collect this data, which included more than 6000 individuals, nutritionist conducted in-depth surveys on diet, socioeconomic variables, oral hygiene habits, and more. Partial dental examinations were also conducted to rule out existing gum disease.
What’s the Connection Between Yogurt and Gum Disease?
Every good scientist has to answer the question of whether data they’ve collected shows a correlation, and, if so, what kind. Calcium intake could be one important factor to consider. Milk commercials from the 90s marketed calcium as good for teeth and bones, but it also has a connection to gum disease. In some studies, higher calcium intake has been shown to lower a person’s risk of gum disease.
In this case, however, calcium was ruled out by comparing their data sets with the milk and calcium consumption of others. What was found, was that neither higher intake of milk or calcium was associated with a lower risk of gum disease in the data’s population.
What was found was possible cultures in yogurt that may protect teeth and gums from infection.
Yogurt and the Oral Microbiome
At any one point, your mouth contains 8 billion bacteria. While you may think of this as gross, bacteria are what has allowed us to survive, and if suddenly all bacteria were gone, most of earth’s creatures would die. That being said, our mouth’s microbiome is a complex place that requires a diverse range of species all working together.
Eating yogurt, which contains many health bacterial strains, can help to maintain healthy populations of bacteria, continuing the symbiosis. This can protect your teeth and gums in part because these bacteria crowd out the bad bacteria that infect your gums.