Overnutrition and Oral Health

The proliferation of foods high in calories, fat, sugar, and salt, and low in nutritional content—such as that found in fast-food restaurants and vending machines—has created a "toxic" food environment in many industrialized countries, and this has had an important impact on oral health. Oral bacteria have the ability to synthesize the acids that dissolve tooth enamel from many different types of foods, not just sugar. Frequency of eating is a major factor related to poor oral health in infants, as well as children and adults. Baby bottle tooth decay, also called nursing bottle caries, is a term that refers to the caries formed when an infant is routinely put to sleep with a bottle. Breastfeeding caries is a condition associated with the constant exposure of an infant's oral environment to breast milk, while pacifier caries occurs when a pacifier is dipped in honey prior to inserting the pacifier into an infant's mouth.

Both childhood and adult obesity are on the rise, and they have reached epidemic proportions in some countries. Obesity is traditionally associated with increased rates of non-insulin-dependent diabetes; elevations in blood pressure; and elevated serum glucose, blood cholesterol, and triglycerides (blood fat)—but it is also associated with decreased oral health status. For example, the number of servings of fruit juice and soft drinks ingested each calorie: unit of food energy fat: type of food molecule rich in carbon and hydrogen, with high energy content fast food: food requiring minimal preparation before eating, or food delivered very quickly after ordering in a restaurant obesity: the condition of being overweight, according to established norms based on sex, age, and height blood pressure: measure of the pressure exerted by the blood against the walls of the blood vessels serum: non-cellular portion of the blood cholesterol: multi-ringed molecule found in animal cell membranes; a type of lipid triglyceride: a type of fat

Oral diseases like gingivitis (left) and periodontitis (right) may result from overnutrition. When food consumption is excessive, or when the foods consumed are frequently sugary or acidic, the enamel on teeth can dissolve and gums can be infected. [The Gale Group.]

Healthy Gums Gingivitis Periodontitis

Inflamed gum Plaque and tartar Infected pocket

Firm gums

Pocket

Periodontal ligament

Pocket

Firm gums

Periodontal ligament

Loss of ligament and bone

anorexia nervosa: refusal to maintain body weight at or above what is considered normal for height and age micronutrient: nutrient needed in very small quantities metabolism: the sum total of reactions in a cell or an organism day is correlated not only with obesity in children, but also with increased caries. The American Academy of Pediatrics has warned parents on the overuse of fruit juices in children's diets.

Although diet soft drinks do not contain sugar, they do contain both carbonic and phosphoric acids and can directly destroy tooth enamel, particularly if the teeth are periodically exposed to a diet drink throughout the day. The direct demineralization of tooth enamel by regular and diet soft drinks has similarities to the demineralization of tooth enamel common in anorexia nervosa, in which forced regurgitation of food exposes lingual tooth surfaces (the side of the tooth facing the tongue) to stomach acids. In the case of enamel erosion produced by soft drinks and juices, effects are usually seen on all the tooth surfaces.

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