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Beyond Brushing: The Link Between Obesity and Tooth Decay

Klement Family DentalYou know brushing and flossing are the key to proper dental care, but did you know that obesity plays a role in oral health? Recent research has revealed a link between obesity and tooth decay.

Dual Threat

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), tooth decay is the most common form of chronic disease for individuals ages 6-19. Obesity is also on the rise, affecting one out of three children in the United States.

Obesity is tied to dental health through both activity and nutrition. A sedentary lifestyle is often linked to obesity. Children are more likely to snack on sweet and salty convenience foods while watching television or during other sedentary activities. During this snacking, bacteria feast on the high-sugar, high-calorie foods, increasing cavity and obesity risk. Reaching for acidic drinks, like sodas, only compounds the hazard. These beverages contribute to tooth decay by deteriorating tooth enamel.

Obesity is also linked to a number of detrimental health effects, including inflammation and acid reflux. For your teeth, these two issues create a one-two punch that may lead to an increased cavity risk, but you can reduce your risk for both cavities and obesity with a few simple lifestyle strategies.

Have a Plan

Support is key to changing poor health habits. If nutritious meal planning is difficult for you, enlist the help of your family physician and dentist. Planning meals reduces the chance of impulse eating and of making poor food choices.

Limit sports drinks and sweetened carbonated beverages to rare occasions. Liquid calories make it easy to over-consume, and drinking them drenches the teeth in sugar. Instead, fuel the body with nutrition-packed foods. Lean proteins, fruits, vegetables and whole grains all play roles in preventing both obesity and tooth decay according to the American Dental Association (ADA).

Grazing all day increases the time food is in contact with the teeth and may increase cavity risk. Try to eat meals and snacks at scheduled times, and brush your teeth afterwards. By limiting food intake to meal times, you can also promote a healthy body weight through satiation and natural calorie reduction.

An unexpected cavity culprit involves sharing food, utensils and drink cups. The habit spreads cavity-causing bacteria from one person to another, so this is one time when it’s better manners to say, “No, Thank you.”

If you have children, snacks can be a necessity. Simplify the grab-and-go dilemma by keeping healthy choices at the ready. Wash and pre-cut vegetables for a quick snack. They’ll travel well, too, if you’re out for the day running errands.

Once you’ve put your nutrition plan into place, focus on active family time. Walks in the park, Frisbee and bike riding are activities everyone can enjoy.

Go for the Glory

Following healthy eating and exercise habits, getting regular physical and dental check-ups and brushing and flossing daily are all important for staying healthy. Reaching and maintaining a healthy body-mass index is important as well and can lead to overall wellness for both children and adults.