Harvard Men's Health Watch

DASH diet linked to better dental health


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In the journals

Eating a heart-healthy diet is associated with better dental health, according to a study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet was originally developed to lower blood pressure, but research has uncovered a variety of other possible health benefits.

In the new study, researchers with the Veterans Affairs Dental Longitudinal Study followed 533 men ages 47 to 90. The men had dental exams every three years over a 20-year period. A trained examiner checked the men for signs of root cavities, which can occur if the gums recede and expose the root surface. Root cavities lead to tooth loss, an outcome that most men understandably want to avoid.

The study used diet questionnaires to document the extent to which the men's diet matched the DASH plan, which emphasizes fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy foods, dietary fiber, whole grains, and limited added sugar. Men whose diets most closely matched a DASH plan scored 30% lower on a scale that assessed the chance of developing new or repeat root cavities.

Although this research links a DASH diet to better overall dental health, it does not conclusively demonstrate a cause-and-effect relationship. The amount of sugar in the men's diet did not appear to explain the pattern. Instead, a generally higher-quality diet and its particular mix of carbohydrates may help to prevent tooth decay and tooth loss.