A recent review of studies presented at the Experimental Biology 2012 meeting in San Diego, CA evaluated whether fish oil supplementation could be a beneficial additional therapy for periodontitis, or gum disease. Researchers from Australia reviewed eight human studies and found improvements in clinical measures in all studies, but the two studies that used a combination of fish oil with aspirin found most benefit. More studies are needed to determine if fish oil plus aspirin is more beneficial than fish oil alone.
In one study, 900 milligrams of EPA+DHA and 81 milligrams of aspirin daily was added to a scaling and root planning procedure, and was found to improve probing depths and attachment at 3 and 6 months when compared to only the scaling and root planning procedure.2 Another study adding fish oil and aspirin to decalcified freeze-dried bone allograft found similar improvements in patients with gum disease.3
Fish oil alone may also be sufficient. One study evaluated dietary intake of EPA and DHA and found that low intake of DHA was associated with more periodontal disease events in elderly patients.4 Brenda also blogged last year about another study that found fish oil beneficial for gum disease.
Lead researcher of the review, Dr. Alison Coates stated, “I would recommend that people ensure they have a sufficient intake of long chain omega-3 fatty acids in their diet for general health. In Australia, these types of fatty acids are considered to be essential with about 500 milligrams recommended as the suggested dietary target.” Recommendations by the American Heart Association (AHA) are similar. AHA recommends the consumption of at least two fatty fish meals per week, which is the equivalent of about 500 milligrams of EPA+DHA fish oil daily. AHA also recommends 1 gram (1000 milligrams) of EPA+DHA daily for people with coronary heart disease, and 2–4 grams daily for people with high triglycerides.
The connection between heart disease and periodontal disease illustrates why omega-3 fish oil may also benefit periodontal disease. Both are inflammatory conditions, and omega-3s have anti-inflammatory effects in the body. It could also be that the omega-3s help to maintain tight connections between the gums and teeth (like the tight connections between intestinal lining cells). Thus, a good tooth-gum connection may prevent “leaky gum syndrome,” and block bacteria from creating pockets between the gum and tooth, which underlies the process of periodontitis. When periodontitis occurs, bacteria seed the blood, and can go to the coronary arteries, and create heart attacks even in people without heart disease! I often open fish oil capsules, rub the oil on the gums, and then floss to be sure the tissues get direct oil contact, as well as systemic benefits, of the omega-3 oils.
As you can see, the wide-reaching effects of omega-3 fatty acids—especially the EPA and DHA found in fish oil—are truly astounding. These studies are yet one more example of fish oils wide reaching effects.
- Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). “Fish oil could be therapy for periodontal disease.” ScienceDaily, 24 Apr. 2012.
- H. El-Sharkawy, et al., “Adjunctive treatment of chronic periodontitis with daily dietary supplementation with omega-3 Fatty acids and low-dose aspirin.” J Periodontol. 2010 Nov;81(11):1635-43.
- A.M. Elkhouli, “The efficacy of host response modulation therapy (omega-3 plus low-dose aspirin) as an adjunctive treatment of chronic periodontitis (clinical and biochemical study).” J Periodontal Res. 2011 Apr;46(2):261-8.
- M. Iwasaki, et al., “Longitudinal relationship between dietary ω-3 fatty acids and periodontal disease.” Nutrition. 2010 Nov-Dec;26(11-12):1105-9.