The Impact Of Obesity On Oral Health
Controlling your weight can help lead to a healthier mouth
There are a number of reasons why people might become obese. For the unfortunate few, it can be caused by a medical condition and for some it may be at least partially hereditary. For most of us though, obesity stems from eating too much and exercising too little. Most of us will be aware by now that this can contribute to a number of medical conditions, but it may well be less known that being overweight can also make a difference to your oral health as well.
As part of our preventative strategy, helping our Bedford dental patients to have as healthy a mouth as possible, The Dental Centre Bedford team takes a look at how obesity impacts oral health and what you can do to help control it.
The most obvious issue surrounding obesity and poor tooth health is the likelihood that sugars play a significant role in the diet of someone who is overweight. Whilst other factors such as a high fat intake can also contribute, cakes, biscuits and other sweet things are often found in the shopping basket of someone with this health condition. As we know, sugar is a major contributing factor to tooth decay, feeding, as it does, the potentially harmful bacteria in our mouths which then produce the acids that eat away at the enamel of our teeth. Once the enamel has become sufficiently compromised, the bacteria can then enter the softer part of the tooth leading to tooth decay (and often toothache) as well as further complications such as root canal infections.
Too much sugar in the diet is one of the contributing factors to becoming diabetic, as is generally being overweight. It is well known that diabetics are more susceptible to poorer oral health than someone who is not. One of the major issues here is periodontal disease or gum disease. As we know, this can ultimately lead to tooth loss if not treated in time and monitored on an ongoing basis. Even if it doesn’t reach that stage though, you may well experience some of the following symptoms:
- Sore gums
- Inflamed gums
- Bad breath/halitosis
- Loose teeth (caused by deterioration of the supporting bone)
- Painful chewing
- Blood in your saliva following brushing your teeth
All in all, having gum disease is no fun and, left untreated, can have a devastating effect on your teeth, possibly leading to their loss and the need for dentures or dental implants to replace them.
Poor blood flow
Being diabetic is an additional challenge to physical activity. For those carrying a lot of weight, exercise is also a challenge, sometimes even mild activity such as walking. When we don’t exercise, the heart muscles weaken and pump blood around our body less efficiently. This, as we know, can contribute to heart disease but it can also affect our teeth and gums. Although very tiny, our gums contain blood vessels that pump blood around the gum area, which amongst other functions, helps to fight off infection. As the blood supply eases, infections can take hold more quickly and you may end up requiring dental surgical intervention to save your teeth.
What can you do about it?
There are many resources available to help you to lose weight. Many people find that joining a club or organisation will help as you will have support. There will probably be times when you feel like giving up, but with others around to encourage you, hopefully you will continue and succeed in losing weight. The most obvious thing to do of course, is not just to cut down on the amount of food that you eat but to be more aware of what you eat. Try to switch to healthier foods though it is probably advisable to do this gradually rather than going ‘cold turkey’ on unhealthy food. Your taste buds may take time to adapt so treat them kindly.
Also do start to take some exercise which should be quite gentle to start with. Exercise such as walking or swimming will start to get you gradually fitter and will help with weight loss. Even getting off the bus a stop earlier or not taking your car to the local shop and walking instead will help. You can advance to running or weight training etc later if you so wish. You may wish to consult your GP as to what exercise you should take if you are significantly overweight or have other health conditions, just to be on the safe side before you commence.
We wish any of our Bedford patients the best of luck in their attempt to lose weight. It is perhaps not the easiest time to do this but the first step in anything is making a decision to give it your best shot. As you lose weight and become fitter, you will do so in the knowledge that not only your heart, but your oral health will thank you for it.
If you wish to see a dentist or hygienist at The Dental Centre Bedford, please call our team on 01234 819868.