How Does Oral Care Contribute to Obesity?
— By Andrea M. Pampaloni, Ph.D.
Obesity is linked to dental and periodontal diseases and can lead to serious health risks.
Obesity is linked to dental and periodontal diseases1 and can lead to serious health risks. In addition to discomfort and cosmetic concerns, poor oral care can contribute to serious risks because the bacteria that causes periodontal disease can enter the bloodstream and build plaque in the arteries, potentially causing them to harden.
Although the mechanisms of this connection need continued study, several links have been identified that contribute to the relationship between these two diseases.
- Many comorbidities that exist with obesity also influence the development of periodontitis, including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease
- People with obesity often consume more sugar, which contributes both to poor nutrition and periodontal disease
- High glycemic diets are linked a bacteria often found in the saliva of people with obesity or overweight
- Both periodontal disease and obesity cause inflammation; this can create a circular effect wherein poor dental health contributes to obesity because the chronic inflammation can prevent nutrients from properly being absorbed by the body
- There is also a cause-and-effect relationship between gum disease and inflammation that can precede myocardial infarction, sudden vascular events and strokes, which are already risks for people with obesity
This link can begin in childhood and because both diseases are so prevalent, the World Health Organization encourages a more unified “common risk factor” approach to treating general health, including obesity and oral health. Doing so could address issues among younger people before they become life-long problems and also could offer cost-effective and sustainable outcomes.
High-Protein Diets: One Solution with Many Benefits
Because of the commonalities in factors that contribute to periodontal disease and obesity, dietary changes and weight loss offer multiple positive benefits. Eating fewer refined carbohydrates and foods without sugar is a good starting point to address both issues. Diets high in protein also have been found to benefit weight management2 and periodontal health.3 Other small, daily changes, including improved oral care through daily teeth brushing and flossing can have an big impact by preventing, or even reversing early stage gum disease. A medically-supervised weight management program, such as the New Direction Very Low Calorie Diet, can be employed to address obesity and patients that are overweight.
Just as regular check-ups with physicians are important to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and understanding health risk factors, so too is consistent treatment for oral care and weight management. Reminding patients of the importance of seeing a dentist and maintaining a healthy weight can lead to a host of benefits far beyond a brighter, whiter smile.
- Obesity and Oral Health – Is there a Link? An Observational Study
- Dietary Protein and Energy Balance in Relation to Obesity and Co-morbidities
- Nutrition Update: Dietary Protein for Periodontal Health
About the Author: Dr. Andrea Pampaloni has over 20 years of communication experience across corporate, academic, nonprofit and government sectors. She provides research and writing services on a range of business issues and industry-specific topics to prepare white papers, articles, proposals, presentations, technical content, and speaking points, as well as marketing-communications content such as blogs, website content, newsletters, news releases and award submissions. Dr. Pampaloni’s research findings have been presented at national and international conferences and published in peer-reviewed journals, and she is a ghostwriter for three books, a Forbes article, and several corporate blogs.