Though it's not generally argued that what you eat impacts your oral health, you may be surprised at the wide variety of ways your meals can affect your teeth. Maintaining a well-balanced diet, getting plenty of exercise and staying hydrated are crucial for your overall well-being and a healthy smile. Find out why:
What is gum disease?
The human mouth is filled with bacteria, which is how plaque is formed on the teeth. When it's not brushed away, plaque can turn into tartar, which can only be removed by a dental health professional.1 The bacteria from plaque and tartar can cause gum disease, an oral ailment in which the gums become inflamed. In the later stage of this disease, called periodontitis, the gums can pull away from the teeth and form spaces that may become infected.
At this point, there's no reversing gum disease, and it could lead to tooth decay, tooth loss and even non-oral health problems such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and pneumonia.2 If someone is unable to afford or find a dentist, they may be more susceptible to periodontitis because they are deprived of the opportunity to get the tartar removed by a dental health professional.
How does obesity connect to periodontitis?
Along with not visiting a dentist or practicing proper oral care, research has also found that obesity can increase a person's risk for gum disease. A study published in the Journal of Periodontology Online revealed that overweight females were significantly more likely to develop periodontitis than normal-weight females, but men were not as significantly affected.3
"Obesity can increase a person's risk of gum disease."
Beyond poor diet choices that may also lead to dental decay, people who are overweight experience physiological processes that can contribute to periodontitis. These individuals continuously release proteins with inflammatory properties called cytokines.4 Cytokines can harm the gums directly and reduce blood flow to gum tissues, which can cause the development of gum disease. Gums already produce this protein when they are inflamed, so the additional cytokines not only further harm the mouth, but they also increase the risk of other inflammatory diseases throughout the body.
What is a healthy diet?
Eating a well-balanced diet is important for maintaining your smile and a healthy body weight. Try to incorporate all five of the food groups in your meals: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods and dairy.5 Though even vegetables and milk contain sugars, which can react with the plaque in your mouth and cause tooth decay, these foods also provide vital nutrients for your body.6 Plus, the natural sugars aren't as harmful as the synthetic ingredients found in sweets and sugary drinks.
It's also important to stay within your recommended daily calories, which can be determined by your primary care physician. High-fiber foods, such as fruits and vegetables, can help you feel full while providing a low-calorie meal.
Include a healthy diet and regularly visiting the dentist in your family dental plan. With the right oral care choices, you can keep your whole household safe from gum disease.
1. "Periodontal (Gum) Disease: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments," National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, Sept. 2013. http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/oralhealth/Topics/GumDiseases/PeriodontalGumDisease.htm
2. "Adults over 60," American Dental Association. http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/adults-over-60/
3. "Overweight and Obesity as Risk Indicators for Periodontitis in Adults," Journal of Periodontology Online, Oct. 2005. http://www.joponline.org/doi/abs/10.1902/jop.2005.76.10.1721?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori%3Arid%3Acrossref.org&rfr_dat=cr_pub%3Dpubmed&
4. "Being Overweight Linked to Higher Risk of Gum Disease," Academy of General Dentistry, Feb. 6, 2013. http://www.agd.org/media/125813/agd_press_release_2_6_13.pdf
5. "Food Groups," U.S. Department of Agriculture. http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/
6. "Food Choices Can Affect Your Oral Health," Colgate. http://www.colgate.com/en/us/oc/oral-health/basics/nutrition-and-oral-health/article/ada-04-food-choices-affect-your-oral-health