Omega-3 and Dental Health: Surgery Commuted

I started writing a follow-up to this Marginal Revolution post by Tyler Cowen before I knew of its existence:

January [2007] entodontist [= gum specialist]: “You’ll need surgery either right now, or within a few months. We cut open the gum, clean out the inflammation, and sew your mouth right back up. Only sometimes do we have to eliminate the tooth.”

July 5 [2007] entodontic surgeon, 10:31 a.m.: “We can cancel this morning’s surgery, it seems OK for now, just keep an eye on it.”

In June, Tyler posted about the benefits he derived from flaxseed oil (2 Tablespoons/day): “Very good for my heart, my brain, and my gums.” I asked him what was better. “Much better gums, for sure,” he replied. “The rest is harder to measure.” On July 4 I got around to asking for details. Tyler said that he had had bad gums for most of his life and that he noticed they were much better within a week or two of starting the flaxseed oil. He added

I have crooked wisdom teeth, never wore braces, and my mouth naturally produces lots of plaque. Put all together that means a significant problem with gum disease. I get cleanings every three months or so but still my gums have been much worse than average.

I too have crooked teeth and more plaque than average and I too found that flaxseed oil improved my gums; my dentist was the first to notice.

A recent experiment about omega-3 and dental health. A 1997 experiment. An amazing bowling video.

21 Replies to “Omega-3 and Dental Health: Surgery Commuted”

  1. my guess is that is a form of oil pulling, i.e.,swishing oil in your mouth for 20 minutes or so. Taking flax seed oil, or any other oil seems to eliminate plaque. When i went to the dentist to clean my teeth the plaque was reduced at the front of my mouth, but not the back. I believe this occurred because taking several tablespoons of oil “hits” the front of the mouth and not so much in the back of the mouth. Now that i’m oil pullying, i believe the plaque will be eliminated at the back of mouth as well. i’ll let you know when i go to the dentist.
    The point is, if my sense is correct, the reduction of plaque and improvement of gums works by applying oil to the surface of the teeth/mouth rather than consuming it. I tend to think that any oil would have the same effect.

  2. The bowling video shows the follow-up ball launched before the first ball.

    “I tend to think that any oil would have the same effect.” I took olive oil (ELOO) for three years. My gums did not improve. Only when I switched to flaxseed oil did they improve. The improvement was not a reduction in plaque: it was a reduction in inflammation.

  3. it may be that reduction of plaque and improvement in gums are caused by discrete pathways. I always thought that they were related, i.e., the more plaque the more inflammation of the gums because of the irritation caused by plaque and the bacteria from which plaque is formed .

  4. I have a long history of gum disease, plus a long history of depression. Also, I’ve always hated fish and virtually never eaten it. In recent years I’ve taken omega 3s, and in recent months, flax seed oil. I’ll see what the dentist says next time.

    It ought to be easy to look for correlational evidence linking fish consumption and gum health. There seems to be significant correlation between fish consumption and lack of depression. Also, depression, as I dimly understand it, is implicated with heart disease, as is gum disease. All of this warrants a lot more research…

  5. I’m wondering about the above comment in regard to swishing the falxseed oil. Seth where you swishing the oil or just taking it and you noticed the improvement in your gums.

  6. Tim, when the experiment is that easy, it seems pointless to do surveys. The dose from fish may be too low, anyway. Tyler took 2 Tablespoons/day; I take 3-4 Tablespoons/day.

  7. just to clarify, i’m not swishing flax seed oil in my mouth for two reasons: (i) would result in tasting/smelling the oil which would defeat the underlying purpose of the SLD; (ii) from what i understanding swishing, first thing in the AM removes the bacteria/viruses from your teeth/mouth and you don’t want to swallow that, you spit it out. I use other oils for oil pulling. there are several internet sites that discuss this and the type of oil that is used (most recommend sesame and sunflower). I suggest that anyone seeking to do this examine the web-sites.
    My sense is that oil pulling prevents plaque from forming on one’s teeth. That’s separate and apart from consuming flax seed oil as part of the SLD; and, apparently, for the anti-inflammatory effect of flax seed oil, that, among other things, improves one’s gums.

  8. Inflammatory gum disease appears to respond very well to high dose OmegaMaine omega 3 oil. We formulate this high potency oil in Maine and locally our clients have reported excellent results in terms of reducing gum inmflammation. Inflammation and bone resorption go hand in hand . When inflammation is reduced , progression of peridontal disease slows or stops.

  9. I had to chime in on the Oil Pulling. I’ve been doing this for 2 years now. There are two theories out there about the “OP”. First, there are some bacteria in the mouth that cannot be removed by conventional means. They seem however to be oil soluable. They are the nasties that build the yellow cities on your teeth, releasing harmful acids. And acidic mouth is an unhealthy mouth. There is something in the oil, perhaps their acids, that seem to vanquish these buggers.

    Secondly, what do you think about sublingual absorbtion of EFA’s as opposed to ingesting? They use Oleic Acid in pharmaceuticals for sublingual medication as an enhancer. What is the difference between sublingual and ingesting medication? What role do the stomach acids play in ingestion? Would you get more benefit from one, as opposed to the other? Could it be that swishing oil around your mouth might be a more efficient way to get the EFA’s? How long does it take for sublingual medication to hit the bloodstream?

    From what I read, Flax Seed Oil while wonderful for you, is too lopsided. Flax is very rich in Omega-3 and low in Omega-6 (n-3: n-6 ratio is usually between 3.5: 1 and 4: 1). Exclusive use of flax oil can lead to Omega-6 deficiency within 2-8 months. Using CLA (conjugated linoleic acid, a trans- fatty acid which is produced by shifting a double bond and twisting the molecule of the n-6 EFA, LA) in addition to flax oil can lead to Omega-6 deficiency symptoms even sooner than flax oil used alone. Omega-6 deficiency symptoms from too much flax oil can be reversed either by lowering Omega-3 intake or by increasing Omega-6 intake.

    All in all, my dental health has never been this good since swishing oil around my mouth for 20 minutes each day. I use a good balanced 3-6-9 oil. My skin, my hair, my teeth….it’s not my imagination.

    No one has scientifically studied this except a Dr. Karach, a Russian Doctor who claimed it cured his chronic blood disease. His writings are in Russian and unavailable.

    Thanks for listening.



  11. I have a sublingual formulation of Omega 6 & 3 that is a 1:1 ratio, just perfect for humans whose blood levels are supposed to contain both Omegas but in a 1:1 ratio. You hold it in your mouth for 45 seconds and it hits the brain in 60 seconds. If you swallow liquid or take capsules you lose up to 60% in the digestion process and it takes hours to get into your bloodstream. From the sublingual formulation you can get as much as 85% absorption.

  12. People! If you live in any Western industrialized country (including Israel), you are in NO danger of an Omega 6 deficiency—ever, unless you really work HARD to eliminate these fats from your diet. And you don’t need any supplemental fats with Omega 6, the one exception may be Gamma Linoleic Acid and you should only take it if you are taking a lot (a lot!) of Omega 3 fatty acids. The predominant diet in the US and Europe has Omega 6 fatty acids in abundance/excess and the reason people are adding Omega 3s to their diet is because they have been removed from the diet due to processing (they go rancid amazingly quickly). For example, I was taking Coromega in the evening before bed and thought that it would just slide down my throat. I would wake up in the morning with the flavor of rancid almonds in my mouth and with dark mucus (YUCK!)–it was the Coromega having gone rancid in my throat overnight with much exposure to oxygen (I’m a mouth breather). So try to get 1:1 Omega 6:Omega 3 by reducing your Omega 6 intake while increasing your Omega 3s!

  13. I think we can all decide for ourselves what we feel we are deficient of. Not everyone eats the same food and therefore makes an educated decision. I, for one, had eliminated all fats from my diet (all I ate was fruit and veg with the odd bit of chicken breast) for a long time and whilst this eliminated some things, it compounded others. I became very thin, felt weak, had sore gums, thin hair, had equilibrium problems, etc., just to mention a few. Does anyone else have similar experiences?

  14. Joel – Are you sure that you need to get resolvins to solve your receding gum problem? The resolvins are derived from EPA and DHA, which are in fish oil. Why not take fish oil and see if that helps?

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