Omega-3 fatty acids are most widely known for their heart and brain benefits. Taking an omega-3 supplement high in EPA and DHA every day can protect against heart disease and improve brain health, certainly, but you might not realize that these healthy fats are also good for your gums—DHA in particular.

Gum disease, or periodontal disease, affects up to 50 percent of the US population and is the second most common disease worldwide. Current treatment involves cleaning and local antibiotic application. Dietary solutions for reducing the disease are needed, and a recent study published in the Journal of Dental Research may have a solution. The study results indicate that daily DHA supplementation decreases the average depth of pockets between teeth and gums (the deeper the depth the greater the gum disease). They also found a reduction of inflammation in the gums and a lower gingival index, a measure of gum disease severity.

“In this randomized, controlled trial, aspirin-triggered DHA supplementation significantly improved periodontal outcomes in people with periodontitis, indicating its potential therapeutic efficacy,” noted the researchers.

The study involved 46 adults with moderate periodontal disease who took either 2,000 mg DHA plus aspirin or placebo plus aspirin daily for three months. The researchers measured DHA levels in red blood cell membranes, a marker of long-term omega-3 intake, and found that DHA levels increased in the DHA group, but not in the placebo group, as expected. Those participants taking DHA had lower levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-1 beta (IL-1 beta), both markers of inflammation associated with periodontal disease.

Back in 2010, Japanese researchers reported that dental disease events were 1.5 times higher in people with low DHA levels when compared to those with high DHA levels, establishing a link between DHA and dental health. It looks like it’s time to add periodontal health to the long list of omega-3 benefits.