Two Ways Obesity Can Harm Your Oral Health

According to the latest statistics, 38 percent of adults are classified as obese. Carrying around extra weight can have a lot of consequences for your mental and physical well being, and poor dental health is one of them. Here are two ways being overweight can harm your teeth and gums.

Increased Risk of Periodontal Disease

After analyzing data contained in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III), researchers at the State University of New York at Buffalo found a correlation between obesity and an increased risk of periodontal disease. Namely, regardless of age, ethnic background, sex, or other characteristic, overweight people were more likely to suffer from this oral infection.

It's believed insulin insensitivity may be the common denominator, something that's more prevalent in overweight and obese people. When the body doesn't use insulin properly, excess sugar typically remains in the blood stream. This can lead to a host of problems, such as nerve damage and poor circulation. In regards to oral health, the excess sugar also finds its way into saliva and becomes a food source for oral bacteria, boosting their population. As a result, people may develop more cavities and periodontal disease.

Left untreated, periodontal disease and tooth decay can result in tooth loss and gum recession, both of which can lead to more health problems. Losing weight and getting insulin resistance under control can help reduce your risk of suffering from this issue.

Increased Likelihood of Suffering from Depression

Multiple studies indicate there is a strong link between obesity and depression. However, it is currently unconfirmed whether one is the root cause of the other or if there is a bidirectional link between the two. According to the Center for Disease Control, though, 43 percent of people with depression were also obese and were more likely to be so than people who didn't suffer from this mental disorder.

Regardless of which came first, depression and obesity can cause a person to develop a number of bad habits that have a negative impact on their oral health. A person suffering from both conditions may seek comfort in high-fat and sugary foodstuffs such as cakes, fast food, and ice cream or in cigarettes, alcohol, and illicit drugs. They may not take as good care of themselves due to low energy and low self-esteem.

Even medications designed to help alleviate depression can cause side effects that are harmful to oral health. For example, certain anti-depressants (e.g. Zoloft, Wellbutrin) can cause dry mouth, which increases a person's risk of cavities and periodontal disease.

Getting both conditions under control and making a concerted effort to maintain good oral health habits (e.g. brushing daily) can help you save your teeth.

For more information about this issue or help fixing oral health problems you may have developed due to your health, contact a dentist.