Many epidemiological studies have shown positive associations between specific nutrients – including calcium, vitamins C and D, specific fatty acids – and periodontal health. Protein is a much less studied nutrient from this perspective although it serves as a building block for bone and the periodontium, and also assists with repair of these tissues. Protein has been studied in terms of bone health and risk of fracture, with many but not all studies reporting that higher intakes of protein are associated with higher bone mineral density (BMD). The association between bone and periodontal health, specifically lower hip and/or spine BMD being associated with greater tooth loss and/or clinical attachment loss, may suggest that the periodontium is also influenced by dietary protein intake. Protein is often a nutrition topic of interest given general societal interest in plant-based diets for health, and issues relating to sustainability of the food supply. This nutrition update will provide an overview of the link between periodontal and bone health, and also discuss the potential role of higher than recommended levels of protein intake for musculoskeletal health including periodontal health. Practical aspects about how to incorporate current recommended levels of protein in the diet, with consideration of energy levels and other bone-supporting nutrients in foods, will also be discussed.

Written by: Wendy E. Ward, BArts&Sci, BSc, MSc, PhD; Peter C. Fritz, BSc, DDS, FRCD(C), PhD, MBA