Obesity And Its Impact On Our Oral Health
How excess weight gain can be harmful to teeth and gums
Obesity has long been recognised as a significant health issue. Although currently in the news because of its negative effect on Covid-19 recovery rates, it has long been known to be a contributor to heart disease and diabetes (more of that later). Our reliance on convenience foods and an increasingly sedentary lifestyle means that more and more of us are becoming at risk from this growing problem.
Although there may be medical advances at some point in the future that can help to prevent weight gain, the reality is that much of it is currently down to our own behaviour and even changing just a few simple habits could make a big difference to both our general and oral health.
In today’s Clock Tower Dental Clinic blog, we look at how obesity can have an impact on your teeth and gums along with a few simple tips to set you on the right path.
One of the biggest causes of obesity is our diet. Not only do many of us eat too much for our current lifestyle, but we often end up eating foods that are not healthy for us. Many of these contain high quantities not only of fat, but also of sugar. Even many savoury ready meals contain this as it enhances the flavours and helps to preserve food longer as well. We can call this ‘hidden’ sugar as although we know when we eat cake, for example, that we are eating sugar, we may be unaware of it in other foods where we wouldn’t expect to find it.
Although this is a problem, it would be less so if we were careful not to eat so many foods that are blatantly high in sugar. The obvious examples being in cakes, chocolates, sweets etc. Even some supposedly healthy foods such as breakfast cereals are very high in sugar indeed. As patients of our long-standing Epsom dentists will know, high sugar consumption is likely to lead to tooth decay and gum disease.
One common consequence of being obese is the increased risk of diabetes. This can be very dangerous and can affect many of the essential organs of our body. The increase of glucose in our saliva if blood sugar is not controlled is an obvious risk factor, but diabetes can also damage our blood vessels and reduce blood flow to our gums, making disease more likely.
If you have diabetes, we recommend that you see a dental hygienist every three months for a scale and polish so that we can help to manage any gum health issues.
Our increasingly sedentary lifestyle not only means that we don’t burn up the calories that we consume, but also that our muscles become weaker. As our heart is a muscle, this becomes weaker too and leaves it less able to pump blood around our system as efficiently as it should be doing. This means that we become tired more easily and may be deterred from exercising altogether.
One of the problems is not always ‘what’ we eat but ‘how’ we eat. Long gone, it seems, are the days when we ate three meals a day with perhaps one snack in between. Many of us now ‘graze’ throughout the day. Not only does this mean that it can be difficult to control the amount of calories that we consume, but also means that our teeth don’t get a rest from the sugar that comes into contact with them. With constant snacking, our saliva doesn’t get the chance to wash away bacteria and food debris and help to balance the acidity in our mouth which can contribute to enamel erosion.
There is no ‘instant fix’ to the problem of obesity, but changing a few of our habits can make a significant contribution.
Be more careful and aware of what you eat. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have a treat every now and then, but think before you choose what to eat or drink. Can you choose something with less sugar? If so, that would be the better choice.
Take more exercise. You don’t have to hit the gym or pump iron to get fitter. Even walking more will help. Don’t get in your car for short journeys, most of us can walk to the corner shop for the pint of milk! If you take the bus to work or to go shopping, get off a stop or two earlier and walk the rest of the way. Given the choice between lift/elevator or stairs, always choose the stairs. This is a good way to get the heart pumping more.
Cook more often and more healthily. There are now millions of healthy eating recipes and videos available on the internet. If you think healthy eating is dull, take a good look around. Many cultures have amazing healthy foods that you can easily replicate at home. Cooking at home also means that you can sometimes substitute ingredients for a more healthy version; e.g. replacing butter with olive oil.
Finally, even the best diet and home care doesn’t mean that you don’t need to be seen by one of our experienced Epsom dentists. Make sure that you have an appointment booked with us, and if you don’t, please call the Clock Tower Dental Clinic to arrange one on 01372 720136.