The Fat That's Healthier for Your Teeth

Medically reviewed in January 2021

The keys to a young and healthy smile may be brushing and flossing -- and eating plenty of fish.

In a study, people consuming the highest amounts of omega-3 fats -- particularly two kinds found in fish -- were significantly less likely to have periodontitis, a form of gum disease.

The Healthy-Fat Effect
The greatest gum-health benefits came from a type of omega-3 fat called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), although eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) showed subtle benefits as well. Both fatty acids are found in abundance in cold-water fish, such as salmon and sardines. People who got the most DHA from their diets or supplements had as much as a 20 percent lower risk of gum disease. Researchers think omega-3 fats may help calm oral inflammation caused by infections. The end result? Less tissue breakdown.

Simple Servings
You need to eat only a moderate amount of fish to glean the sort of benefits enjoyed in the study. A good target, researchers say, is two servings a week of salmon, mackerel, herring, or albacore tuna. Eating much more didn't afford extra health advantages. And if you don't eat fish, algae-based DHA supplements can be a good alternative. After all, that's where fish get their fat from.

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