How are oral care and nutrition linked?
Oral care and nutrition are closely interlinked. Foods that contain high sugar content, can lead to dental caries and gum disease as the plaque acids released when sugar is broken down in the mouth erode tooth enamel. Higher sugar foods that are also nutrient-poor are also generally lower in important minerals and vitamins that help to maintain healthy teeth, such as calcium.
What is less well known, however, is that poor oral health can also have a negative impact on a person’s dietary intake, making them less likely to eat a healthy dietary pattern. Tooth pain or tooth loss can lead people to opt for softer, easier-to-chew foods that can be higher in calories, fat and sugar. For example, research shows that periodontitis (gum disease) can result in patients changing their dietary habits to include less fruit and vegetables.1 As a result, poor oral health can itself contribute to unhealthy dietary patterns that are associated with increased risk of chronic non-communicable diseases such as obesity.
In this way, the relationship between oral care and nutrition can be seen as synergistic and bidirectional.2 The relationship can have different implications throughout the life course – for example, in children primary teeth are more susceptible to decay than adult teeth, so a diet high in sugars and other fermentable carbohydrates can more easily lead to dental caries. This can cause pain and infections resulting in disrupted sleep and eating patterns, as well as reduced school attendance and overall wellbeing. Meanwhile, in older adults, poor oral health and lost natural teeth can have a very significant negative effect on dietary intake and nutritional status.
The link between oral care and nutrition only serves to emphasize further the importance of maintaining a holistic oral health routine, including brushing twice a day, maintaining a balanced diet, regular visits to the dentist, and chewing sugar-free gum after meals and snacks.
If you want to know more about oral care and nutrition, watch the video below to see Dr. Michael Dodds, BDS PhD, Senior Principal Scientist, Science & Technology at Mars Wrigley, and Dr. Teresa Marshall, PhD RND LDN FAND, Professor, University of Iowa, discuss the topic as it relates to older adults.
1. Tonetti et al. Impact of the global burden of periodontal diseases on health, nutrition and wellbeing of mankind: A call for global action. (2017)View abstract (Opens in a new tab)
2. American Dietetic AssociationView abstract (Opens in a new tab)
The latest research on sugar-free gum
Two recent systematic reviews published by King’s College have concluded that the regular use of polyol combination chewing gum leads to a reduction in dental caries and is an effective addition to oral health regimens.