Obesity and Your Dental Health
A healthy mouth doesn’t just mean you don’t experience any pain or discomfort when you eat. Poor dental health is associated with an increased risk for a number of systemic conditions, some life-threatening. Systemic conditions also can affect your dental health, leading to increased risk for cavities and periodontal disease.
“One of the newest findings in the dental field is that there is a direct correlation between the health of your gums and your systemic health,” says Charles V. Ankar, DDS, a dentist with a private practice in Chattanooga, Tenn. “Our role as dentists is to help patients get on a good regimen in terms of oral health to make an overall improvement on your systemic health.”
Obesity and your dental health are linked because you need healthy teeth and gums to chew and enjoy crunchy, crisp and healthy foods, such as lettuce, applies and/or celery. With painful or sensitive teeth due to obesity-related damage, you can start yourself on a vicious cycle that prevents you from achieving good dental health.
Research Studies Concerning Obesity and Dental Health
A study published in the 2005 New England Journal of Medicine found that preschool children who experience tooth decay have an increased incidence of being overweight or obese than their peers who have healthy gums. The same study also found those with dental disease tend to consume more calories, regardless of the children’s bodyweight.
Obese adults also can experience marked changes in their dental health. Obesity is considered a risk factor for periodontal disease, a condition that causes inflammation and weakness in the tissues, such as the gums, that hold your teeth in place, according to The Internet Journal of Allied Health Sciences and Practice. Obesity increases the risk a person will experience bleeding gums, which also is a symptoms of periodontal disease. This serious condition can lead to tooth loss and infection, which can lead to systemic conditions, such as heart problems. If you engage in risky behaviors, such as smoking or a high-stress lifestyle, this can further increase the complications associated with obesity and dental health.
Obesity and Your Drink Choices
Sugar-sweetened beverages, such as sodas and juices, can contribute both to obesity and dental health difficulties. This is because sugar-sweetened beverages contain empty calories, meaning they have calories that can contribute to your waistline, yet they do not do a lot for helping you feel full. Sugar consumption is one of the biggest contributing factors to dental caries, which are a precursor to cavities. The sugars attach to your tooth enamel, eroding this protective layer away. Sugars also are the food of choice for bacteria that live in your mouth, meaning they can multiply and live longer in your mouth.
Steps To Reduce Obesity and Improve Dental Health
A healthy lifestyle requires you to make good choices in all facets of your life, from how you care for your teeth to what you eat on a daily basis. Talk to your dentist about individual steps you can take to improve your dental health that also will help you achieve a healthy weight. These include:
- Eating at least five fruits and vegetables every day
- Refraining from eating high-sugar foods or foods that contain high-fructose corn syrup
- Reducing sugar-sweetened beverage consumption
- Consuming low-fat dairy products
- Scheduling a consultation with a diabetes educator if you have been diagnosed with diabetes