My Dental Exam: Good Gums

A week ago I had my teeth cleaned. So dirty! said the dental hygienist. This wasn’t surprising. Because I am in China a lot, I get my teeth cleaned only twice per year. Long ago they got dirty so fast my dentist insisted on four cleanings per year. “But aren’t my gums okay?” I asked the hygienist. They felt okay. Not tender. They did’t bleed when I flossed (which wasn’t often). No, she said. You have pockets of 5 (= 5 mm depth). There is bleeding. Indeed, when I washed out my mouth with water at the end, there was some blood.

Yesterday I had my teeth examined. The hygienist was wrong. Almost all my pockets were 2′s, with a few 3s. That’s very good and a vast improvement from the 4s and 5s I had before I became a big fan of flaxseed oil. My gums improved exactly when I started drinking flaxseed oil, no doubt because the omega-3 in flaxseed oil reduces inflammation. My gums were fine in spite of all the plaque — which is supposed to make gums bad. Apparently the hygienist was so devoted to her theory (lots of plaque = bad gums) that she failed to see an exception she stared at for 30 minutes.

There is a well-established correlation between gum disease and heart disease (more gum disease, more heart disease), probably because both are caused by inflammation. So good gums is very good news — it shows I am doing a good job of reducing inflammation throughout my body. These results also support two of my pet theories:

1. Studying what foods make the brain work best is a good way to improve overall health. I started studying flaxseed oil, and how much to take, because I discovered by accident that it improved my balance. Experiments (what is the effect of flaxseed oil on my balance?) soon showed the optimum amount/day was more than flaxseed oil makers recommended! Before I started eating lots of butter, the optimum for me was about 3 tablespoons/day. After I started eating lots of butter, the optimum seems to have gone down to 2 tablespoons/day. Gum improvement seems to be easy to notice at about 1 tablespoon/day.

2. Our health care system fails to get the simplest things right. Omega-3 is not a mysterious nutrient. It has been shown to improve health in thousands of studies. It is well-known that it is anti-inflammatory. It is also well-known that too much inflammation is a major problem. Even so, our health care system has failed to grasp that a large fraction of the population eats too little omega-3 and this has an easy fix. Other examples of failure to get the simplest things right include gastroenterologists not realizing that digestive problems may be caused by food, dermatologists not realizing that acne may be caused by food, and everyone not realizing that cutting off part of the immune system (tonsillectomies) is a terrible idea.

What other simple things does our health care system get wrong?

14 Responses to “My Dental Exam: Good Gums”

  1. Tomas Says:

    The case of omege3 is not that easy. Yes, it’s been confirmed that they can help – but only short-term. Long-term, the good results vanish or even are negative. The mechanism behind may work like this – initially, O3 displace O6, which means less inflammation. But gradually, PUFAs build up in the body and cause trouble (read: oxidation). O3s are even more “fragile” than O6s because of the position of the double bond – one more reason to think that loading on them may not be a good idea.
    What works for me is cut PUFAs in general and get enough fat-soluble vitamins. The result is basically same as yours – some plague, no carries, ok gums – with less flossing and brushing than before.

    Seth: The improvement produced by omega-3 is “only short-term”? The improvement in my gums has lasted six years.

  2. Jon Says:

    How do you consume your butter? I usually only like it with bread products but I’ve heard some opine that animal fat and wheat are toxic for the body. I don’t know if that is true or not but I’ve found that cutting down on wheat does help me to maintain my weight better, along with your sugar water treatment.

    Seth: I eat my butter with small thin pieces of roast beef. If animal fat is toxic for the body, why does butter taste so good?

  3. John Says:

    As Tomas sort of says, omega-3s can help short term because they block arachidonic acid metabolism. High amounts may be a long term problem, but the long chain 3s still seem okay for the brain. It seems safer to just consume low amounts of each though.

  4. Tuck Says:

    The basic thing that doctors get wrong is that they think their patients are non-compliant or idiots. Sure that’s true in some cases, but as someone who now eats in opposition to the standard advice, I can tell you: it’s hard. EVERYONE else is eating high-carb, low-fat, as they’ve been advised to by the government.

    The medical profession seems to think that the fact that their advice is not producing the result they desire (a low fat diet is not reducing fat) is because their patients are non-compliant liars…

    They (speaking broadly) don’t consider the other possibility, that their advice doesn’t produce the desired result. It’s much easier to think that your patients are liars.

    One regularly sees this in the literature: “dietary interventions don’t work…” No, dietary interventions work really well, as the paleo and low-carb studies show; what doesn’t work is the standard advice.

    Also, on the omega-3/omega-6 front: “As Tomas sort of says, omega-3s can help short term because they block arachidonic acid metabolism.”

    This is not correct. “As arachidonic acid was not provided by the diet, it can be concluded that alpha-linolenic acid does not inhibit chain elongation and desaturation of linoleic acid to arachidonic acid in man.”

    http://www.jlr.org/content/27/4/421.short

    I suspect that if Seth is seeing improvement in his dental condition because of eating flax oil, it’s because the flax oil is altering the ecosystem in his mouth to a more beneficial one, or because the cells of his mouth are able to use it directly, and in place of a carbohydrate-based ecosystem/substrate. I’ve experienced the same improvement without short-chain n-3 consumption, through eating a low-carb/high-fat diet, but I don’t eat much short-chain n-3 fats.

  5. dearieme Says:

    “How do you consume your butter?” Betwixt toast and marmalade. Between oatcakes and cheese. On boiled potatoes. On steamed vegetables. (Who eats peas without butter on them; or broccoli?) As garlic butter on steaks. In most sauces that my wife makes in her cooking, and in her soups. In sandwiches.

  6. Antonio Pedro Says:

    “If animal fat is toxic for the body, why does butter taste so good?” I don’t really follow that logic. Lot’s of people love trash food. But maybe I am missing something. Cheers,

    Seth: The logic is that evolution would have not caused us to want to eat something that is toxic.

  7. dearieme Says:

    “How do you consume your butter? ”

    Another possibility is as ghee, with Indian food. Seth may know whether it’s healthy.

  8. Alex Chernavsky Says:

    I’ve been taking approx. 3 tablespoons of flaxseed oil daily for about three years. I noticed that I have considerably less staining on my teeth. But, sadly, my pockets have not decreased in size. They’re still pretty deep. The last time I visited the dentist, my hygienist said that she’ll have to do a deep-cleaning soon. Not sure if that procedure works or not, but I scheduled an appointment for September.

  9. Antonio Pedro Says:

    So what would explain trash food or bad eating habits more generally? I am now living in US (Los Angeles) and I am surprise that many actually *prefer* trash food. Best,

    Seth: A great deal of time and energy has gone into learning how to fool people into eating food that is bad for them but profitable for the seller. For example, we like all fats — evolution’s way of getting us to eat animal fat (good). But our liking for fat also makes us like food made with plant fats (some of which are bad).

  10. Tomas Says:

    Tuck, for PUFA metabolism I consult Chris Masterjohn’s articles. He clearly states that

    Too much LA, ALA and EPA (twenty-carbon omega-3 eicosapentaenoic acid) can interfere with the body’s production and utilization of AA and DHA.

    Seth: I didn’t say that, I don’t know what you are doing. I was just speculating why our health care system supposedly fails to see the problem.

  11. Ashish Says:

    My gums have seen a similar reduction in problems (from 3s and 4s and 5s to 2s) over the past couple of years. I’ve been taking Omega 3 pills for longer than that, so as far as I can tell, the improvement is due to oil pulling – in my case with sesame oil.

    What amazes and infuriates me about this is that my dentist and hygienist, who have been managing my oral care for years, are so completely uninterested in what has changed to cause the improvement. I’ve tried to tell them about oil pulling, but if it’s not in their manual, it doesn’t exist. (And their other patients won’t be hearing about it.)

  12. Morris Says:

    I have sufferred from periodontal gum disease for many years despite following dentists’ instructions. Things slowly got worse until 3 years ago when I got a bad flare and lost 3 tooth implannts. I decided to look into the causes myself and found that this is a systemic microbial disease which also affects connective tissue and the heart. I changed my diet, rest and exercise regime. Now 2 years later my gums have (and continue) improved greatly, tartar deposition rates have decreased so much that 6 month cleaning is now the norm (not 2). I see like improvements in my joints. My diet includes ample w-3 fats from seafood.

  13. David Says:

    I have used a tooth powder (named “Ecodent”, made in Wisconsin) for a number of years, and it has resulted in great gum health. The key is to brush within five minutes of eating, always, at least initially.

    Google “Nara” for background.

  14. shtove Says:

    My gums are fine. Last checkup didn’t need a clean, contrarty to previous monthly check ups.

    The gap between last check up and this was 9 months, in which period I brushed with coconut oil twice a day, one of these with sodium bicarb added.

    Also on low inflammatory diet a la paleo. Don’t take industrial seed oil, like flaxseed – just ghee, coconut oil, animal fat (including beef drippings) olive oil and tinned sardines/anchovies/salmon fillets.

    Is it the case that the effect of these O3 oils will wear off?