Because prevention is a hallmark in both pediatric and dental practices, we must focus our efforts at an early stage − establishing good habits of the mother and family while pregnant, and continuing through the pediatric screenings. In recent years, with the advent of oral DNA analysis, we have been able to find a link, a common bacteria present in both obese people and people with high rate of decay. The issue is quite complex and we are unsure as to what comes first, but there is a clear connection in the fact that food products with a high sugar content have the potential to cause both obesity and dental cavities. Whether there are further connections between the two conditions will be researched further.
Common risk factors to both childhood obesity and dental caries are:
Oral Health Habits: Poor oral hygiene habits in addition to decrecreased frequency of dental visits.
Nutrition Habits: increased sugar intake; decreased consumption of fruits and veggies; no breakfast/dairy; fragmented meals and snacks; meals away from home/eating on the go. Socio-Economic Status: Low SES (socioeconomic status)/Poverty; Parent Education level.
On the other hand, with above average income, where the care of the child is often relegated to third parties, and parents are working more outside the home, we are seeing the same patterns.
So, what is the role of the oral health provider in managing weight? Traditionally, the dentist has been thought of as someone who cleans teeth, fills teeth or pulls teeth. Oral health is an extension of our general health, so it stands to reason that many ailments may start in the mouth. As alluded to earlier, there are salivary markers now showing up that are linked to heart disease, diabetes, some lung disorders, even prostate cancer. Another big connection is gum disease which has been shown to cause premature birth/low birth rate.
There are a number of diagnostic tests that will help the dentist−who is familiar with the mouth and saliva−and in conjunction with your primary care physician and a nutritionist, can get both weight gain and bacteria lode under control. There are oral DNA tests which are simple “spit” tests for adults and “swabs” for children that are kid friendly. Ask your dentist for information on these screenings if you have a child with weight issues or you, yourself are struggling. Contact us today to learn more about how your McLean, VA dentist, Dr. Mary Gharagozloo. We would be happy to answer any questions you may have and help you on your road to good health.