The gum improvements produced by omega-3 fats can be easy to see:
1. About six months ago, my dentist noticed that my gums were in excellent shape (a healthy pink, not red), for the first time in memory. I had started taking 3-4 Tablespoons/day flaxseed oil a few months earlier. I hadn’t made other dietary changes nor had I started brushing or flossing my teeth more. I have slacked off the usual dental care (I floss less often) but my gums have remained in excellent shape, according to my dentist.
3. Catherine Shaffer, a Michigan writer, had the same experience with fish oil:
I bought a bottle of Carlson Laboratories [fish oil] and began taking the recommended dosage [1 teaspoon/day] . . . My gums have been chronically inflamed for as long as I can remember. They were reddish in color, had a tendency to bleed when poked, and have earned me many lectures on flossing from my dental hygenist. I have had to brush three times a day and floss twice to keep the inflammation down. However, as soon as I started taking the fish oil, my gums turned a pale pink, and I even though I have been very lazy about flossing, they have not been bleeding.
Maybe I should have called gingivitis (inflamed gums) the new scurvy. (Vitamin C cures scurvy in a few weeks.) Such fast big lasting improvements imply the flaxseed or fish oil supplied something important that was missing. Too much inflammation is a body-wide problem — many conditions end in -itis (e.g., arthritis) — so it is likely that the flaxseed or fish oil is having other benefits. Consistent with this idea, gum disease is correlated with several other health problems, including stroke, heart disease, and low-weight babies.
Gingivitis is the most common and mildest form of oral/dental disease. According to the Food and Drug Administration, approximately 15 percent of adults between 21 and 50 years old, and 30 percent of adults over 50, have gum disease . . . The main cause of gingivitis is plaque . . . The best defense against gingivitis is brushing and flossing after meals, as well as professional cleaning by a dental hygienist every three to four months.
How fragile the conventional wisdom (“The main cause of gingivitis is plaque . . . The best defense . . . is brushing and flossing”) turns out to be. Eighty years ago, Weston Price, a Cleveland dentist, had the same doubts I do. In travels around the world, he saw many people with excellent teeth who never brushed them. They ate ancient diets, with far more omega-3 than modern food.