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Obesity contributes to poor oral health

7th July 2011 Print

Poor oral health has joined the list of knock-on effects of obesity, a recent study has concluded.

The study revealed the deeper the periodontal pockets, the higher the proportion of subjects with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or over, a figure according to the World Health Organization is generally considered as obese.

In 2008, 1.5 billion adults, 20 and older, were overweight. Of these, over 200 million men and nearly 300 million women were obese, a trend also reflected in the results of the study.

Periodontal pockets are essentially food and plaque traps that irritate and decay teeth to the point the tooth will eventually fall out. The deeper the pocket, the greater the risk. During the inaugural National Childhood Obesity Week, Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, expressed his concern at the findings and encouraged doctors to take a greater role in tackling poor oral health.

Dr Carter said: "As almost one in four adults in the UK are classed as being obese, and gum disease is recognised as the major cause of tooth loss in adults, there is clearly a significant oral health risk to a large proportion of people.

"There has been much discussion about broadening the role of the dentist to check for illnesses such as diabetes, and when it comes to obesity, there is definitely a case for doctors relaying information on how their diet is directly affecting their oral health.

"As well as recommending people brush for two minutes twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste and they visit their dentist regularly, the Foundation also recommends people cut down on how often they have sugary foods and drinks. By following these three key rules, you stand a much greater chance of having and keeping healthy gums, thereby reducing the risk of gum disease, tooth loss and decay."

Studies and experts have pointed to grazing and snacking as a possible cause in the rise of obesity. A team from the University of North Carolina3 analysed data from food surveys carried out in the United States during the seventies, eighties, nineties and the last decade, and while obesity rose in each, increases in the number of eating occasions and portion size seem to account for most of the change.

Dr Carter added: "Snacking and grazing is becoming an increasing problem, particularly as people are working longer hours. The notion of 'desk grazing' might suffice short-term hunger, but it is considerably better for your teeth and general health if you eat three meals a day instead of having seven to ten 'snack attacks'. If you do need to snack between meals, choose foods such as cheese, breadsticks, nuts or raw vegetables."

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