Junk food vs. oral health

Junk food vs. oral health

Whenever I go on vacation (I just got back from one on Thursday), I allow myself to eat whatever I want.  It’s never all junk food mind you, but I do have my share.  I do it for two reasons.  One, I get to enjoy certain foods that I never eat during my “regular” life (e.g. crab legs, bacon, butter, cheese burgers, etc.).  And two, it’s so much easier just to choose from what the restaurant has to offer.  Trying to eat a healthy vegan diet at restaurants, to put it bluntly, is a pain in the ass, so I rarely even try.  I enjoyed my recent binge (especially the crab legs), but it made me feel like shit.  I can REALLY notice how diet affects my body whenever I temporarily go off my clean diet.  My body just doesn’t perform the same.  Something bad is definitely happening : ).  When trying to maintain a healthy diet, indulging every now and then is not a big deal, but eating like that on a daily basis will absolutely wreak havoc on your body.  So if that is the case, then what is that same crappy diet doing to our oral health?

When I was in hygiene school there was a strong focus on nutritional counseling, but most of that focus was on sugar intake in relation to caries risk.  There was little talk about how an overall diet, including macro and micro nutrients, affects oral health in general.  There are many ways diet will affect oral health beyond just too much sugar intake.  But let’s just take one small example for the sake of brevity; vitamin D and periodontal health.  There is a definite connection between levels of vitamin D and periodontal health, and unfortunately, a significant percentage of the population is deficient.  So what does that mean for our patients?  Are you currently treating a perio patient with a vitamin D deficiency?  Should we ask our perio patients about their vitamin D levels?  Probably.  But how many of us actually do?  I’m guessing very few, including myself.  I think we hygienists, and again I’m including myself, would benefit from learning more about general nutrition and how it affects oral health.

Do you have a current perio patient with excellent home care and who is on a consistent 3 month recall, but still showing signs of disease?  Well, diet may be the one or primary variable tipping the scale towards disease.  Have some broccoli people.

Related articles
The “Sunshine Vitamin” and Periodontal Health: A Vitamin D Update
The role of diet in periodontal disease
The Role of Diet in Oral Disease Prevention
Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D?


Mark Frias, RDH

One thought on “Junk food vs. oral health

  1. Kudos to you Mark for bringing up diet as a cause of both caries and periodontal disease. Sugar and other fermentable carbohydrates are without a doubt, the cause of dental disease. Cultures that did not have any sugar or flour or processed foods had no dental disease, not diabetes, no heart disease and no cancer. After sugar was introduced, the disease cascade began. Dental disease is the alarm bell for systemic diseases. Check out this interesting article by Philipe Hujoel in the Journal of Dental Research: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19587153. If you want the full article, let me know and I’ll send it to you. Worth the read to see how scientific evidence in the 1960s was ignored for the personal gain of the low-fat diet proponents.

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