How is being overweight linked to your oral health?

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At Loock Dental we take a holistic approach to your oral health and well-being. A recent study (2021) has shown a clear link between obesity and an increased risk of gum disease. It highlights in particular the bad effect obesity can have on the bone tissue surrounding your teeth.

The connection between a high sugar diet and dental problems is well understood by most people, and obesity is frequently linked to a poor diet. However, researchers have recently established that teeth and gum health and health conditions, such as being pregnant, or having an illness like diabetes, or being obese, are a two-way street. In other words, your oral health can affect your overall well-being and your overall health affects your oral well-being.

What this means for you is that having an attractive and healthy smile is about more than practicing good oral hygiene and perhaps having a tooth whitening procedure from time to time. You need to take care of your overall health in order to have healthy teeth and gums.

As obesity is on the rise in children and adults in the developing and developed world, it is important to raise awareness of the health implications, including for long term oral health.

So how does being overweight have anything to do with your teeth?

What is obesity?

To start with, this research refers to obesity rather than to just being a little on the heavy side. According to the World Health Organisation, obesity is defined as being so overweight it poses a risk to your health. The difference between being overweight and being obese, is that being overweight is defined as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of over 25, while being obese is having a Body Mass Index over 30. You can calculate your BMI here.

How does obesity affect your oral health?

While there is a clear relationship between obesity and periodontal disease, the exact mechanisms that link these two problems are not yet completely understood. Here is what we understand so far.

Studies indicate that the link between obesity and oral health probably comes from a kind of inflammation caused by obesity. This inflammation response increases the production of a type of cell which regulates immune function during illness, and this is where the problem could lie.

In other words, your body’s immune system interprets being chronically overweight as the same as being ill, and goes into overdrive producing immune cells. The trouble is, illnesses don’t normally last as long as being obese does, so you end up with more of a chronic illness situation.

The immune cells produced in this response by your body originate in your bone marrow and can develop into other types of cells, including ones which break down bone tissue. This can lead to bone diseases, which are common among obese people, such as osteoporosis and arthritis, but also to periodontal disease, which affects the bones in the jaw surrounding your teeth.

Bone loss is a major symptom of gum disease, and may lead to the loss of teeth. This could be unexpected in someone obese who takes very good care of their oral hygiene with flossing and brushing.

Other warning symptoms of gum disease might not appear first, such as bleeding or inflamed red gums. This is because the problem is starting in the bone tissue rather than in the gums and then moving to the bones (which is the usual progression for periodontal disease. The signs of periodontitis can be diagnosed by your dentist during your routine checkups. This is why it is important to schedule these for at least 2 times a year. Chat to your Loock dentist if you have any health issues which you believe might impact your oral health as well.

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Marguerite MacRobert

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