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Consumer News-High-fiber fruits and healthy gums

Bananas, apples, oranges and blueberries are a tasty snack but eating them could also lead to healthier gums, specifically in white men over 65.

Researchers who studied healthy male veterans for up to 24 years found that the older vets who ate more high-fiber fruits showed a lower risk of alveolar bone loss, lower likelihood of tooth loss and a lower risk of gum recession.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs conducted a long-term dental study, led by Dr. Elizabeth Krall Kaye at the Boston University School of Dental Medicine, which looked at 625 men from the Boston area for an average of 15 years. The results were published online in February in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Dr. Kaye and her team first assessed the participants’ dental health in 1984 and every three to five years after that. They found that eating high-fiber vegetables, legumes and grains did not significantly reduce the risk of gum disease and that the benefits of eating high-fiber fruits was not seen in men younger than 65.

Before each exam, the men filled out a questionnaire about the high-fiber foods they ate each day that contained more than 2.5 grams of dietary fiber per serving, including bananas, apples, oranges, blueberries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, spinach, peanuts, oats and other grains.

The study doesn’t prove that the high-fiber fruits lowered the men’s risk for gum disease but it could link other factors that contribute to better oral health. Eating high-fiber fruits could also mean a person has a higher vitamin intake, an overall healthier lifestyle, flosses more often or smokes less, any of which could be the reason for healthier gums.

Dr. Kaye and her team also theorized that since foods high in fiber require more chewing, which increases saliva production, which, in turn, would remove harmful bacteria from the mouth. They also speculated that dietary fiber might also help reduce gum disease by helping to reduce hyperglycemia and hypertension, both of which are risk factors for gum disease.

The American Dental Association recommends regular checkups and periodontal exams. Risk factors include tobacco smoking or chewing; systemic diseases such as diabetes; various medications such as steroids, cancer therapy drugs and oral contraceptives; bridges that no longer fit properly; crooked teeth; fillings that have become defective; and pregnancy, according to the ADA.

The ADA says warning signs include gums that bleed easily; red, swollen or tender gums; gums that have pulled away from the teeth; persistent bad breath or bad taste; permanent teeth that are loose or separating; changes in the way your teeth fit together when you bite; or any change in the fit of partial dentures.

For more information on periodontal disease, visit www.ada.org/3063.aspx.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

04/11/2012

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