Less pasta, healthier gums? A new study looks at the link between carbs and periodontal health

Okay, first things first, I will still continue to have more than my fair share of pasta. Spaghetti and I are practically BFFs.

Whew. Glad I got that off my chest.

However, after reading about a recent pilot study by German researchers I may need to analyze other times when I can say no to extra carbohydrates to even it all out.

Because, while this was just an initial study they hope will be a catalyst for much larger scale research, there was a strong indication that adapting a reduced-carbohydrate diet could improve gum health.

The idea for this study came from the knowledge that this type of diet has been proven to reduce inflammation in other areas of the body. So, based on this fact, Dr. Johan Wölber, who led the study, decided to design this pilot study that observed 15 individuals for a 6 week period.

Participants in the study were at least 18 years old, had gingivitis, and ate a diet that consisted of a lot of carbohydrates. Ten of the participants went on a low-carbohydrate, anti-inflammatory diet (which also included increasing intake of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C, vitamin D, antioxidants, and fiber), while the other 5 continued with their normal diets.

The results of the experiment on the 15 individuals, while by no means comprehensive, seemed to indicate Dr. Wölber and his team are on to something.

According to a summary of the study on DrBicuspid.com, “the experimental group showed significantly reduced gingival and periodontal inflammation compared with the group who did not change their diet. Specifically, reducing carbohydrates led to a significant improvement in gingival index, bleeding on probing, and periodontal inflamed surface area.”

Another interesting finding from this group of participants was that neither group experienced a change in the amount of plaque on their teeth despite the reduction in periodontal inflammation in those who altered their diets. This leaves room for a new question to study—does plaque play less of a role in the development of periodontal disease than we currently believe?

When it comes to either question, there are no hard and fast answers at the moment. But as dentistry continues to evolve so do the questions about dental health and how best to maintain it.

So, until then, I will continue to eat pasta, just—as they say—in moderation.