Postmenopausal diets may be detrimental to oral health, study finds

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Experts say carbs and sugary foods may increase the risk of a gum infection

A new study conducted by researchers from the University at Buffalo explored how consumers’ diet choices may affect their oral health

According to their findings, eating larger quantities of carbs and sugary foods was linked with a higher risk of periodontal disease among postmenoapusal women

“Limited research exists on carbohydrate intake and oral microbiome diversity and composition assessed with next-generation sequencing,” the researchers wrote. “We aimed to better understand the association between habitual carbohydrate intake and the oral microbiome, as the oral microbiome has been associated with caries, periodontal disease, and systemic diseases.” 

How diet affects oral health

For the study, the researchers analyzed data from over 1,200 postmenopausal women enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative. Participants completed food questionnaires, which tracked the frequency with which they were eating carbs, starch, monosaccharides, disaccharides, and fiber. The team then tested plaque from underneath the gums to understand if the women’s diet choices affected their risk for gum infections. 

“We examined these bacteria in relation to usual carbohydrate consumption in postmenopausal women across a wide variety of carbohydrate types: total carbohydrate intake, fiber intake, disaccharide intake, to simple sugar intake,” said researcher Amy Millen, Ph.D.

Ultimately, the researchers observed a clear link between diet and oral health. They found that sugar intake was specifically linked with an increase in the Leptotrichia spp. bacteria, which may increase the risk for gingivitis. 

The team also learned that greater consumption of carbs and sucrose was associated with a higher risk of Streptococcus mutans. This bacteria may increase the risk of tooth decay and cardiovascular disease. 

Moving forward, the team plans to do more work in this area to better understand how these oral health risks may affect full body health. 

“As more studies are conducted looking at the oral microbiome using similar sequencing techniques and progression or development of periodontal disease over time, we might begin to make better inferences about how diet relates to the oral microbiome and periodontal disease,” Dr. Millen said. 

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