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Michael Sultan: Obesity & Oral Health

The UK is experiencing an ongoing obesity crisis. Rates of obesity have tripled across the globe since 1975, and the UK ranks among the worst countries in Europe for obesity in the general population. Almost two thirds of UK adults are classified as obese, as are 14.4% of reception-aged children (4-5-years).

COVID hasn’t helped, figures in this early post-pandemic era show that 40% of adults gained weight during this time, with the average weight gain coming in at half a stone. But what is the cause of all this?

Although it is impossible to link to just one origin, there are a few key factors that have been singled out. The first of these is our diet. Research into our eating habits have discovered that only one in three people in the UK have a healthy diet, meaning that the vast majority of us are consuming more fat, sugar and processed food than recommended on a daily basis.

But a healthier diet isn’t necessarily just a case of swapping out unhealthy foods for fresh fruit and vegetables. For many people already struggling with the cost-of-living-crisis, cheaper, processed food is likely to remain the only option. Fast food is convenient and cheap – as a nation it’s estimated that we consume over 100 million takeaways and fast-food meals a week!

Our sedentary lives are also to blame. On average, UK adults spend only 1 hour 30 minutes exercising per week. A quarter of Brits are classed as physically inactive (getting less than 30 minutes of moderate exercise per week), while 14% admit they don’t exercise at all.

Compounding this, many people work in offices, with almost half admitting that they don’t leave their desks for periods of at least six hours and four-fifths are sedentary for the equivalent of 67 days a year.

A complete health problem

It is well known that obesity has been linked to a number of adverse health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, breast and bowel cancer and increased risk of stroke. But how is this impacting oral health?

Obesity has also been tied to certain oral health complications, including an enhanced risk of periodontitis. As I was browsing recent scientific articles, I came across this interesting piece that explained why obesity and periodontitis often go hand in hand. According to a study performed by the Journal of Dental Research, obesity raises the number of cells called myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC).

These cells are an immune response to inflammation, and can turn into a number of different cell types including osteoclasts – those responsible for breaking down bone. These may then go on to attack the bone holding the dentition in place, exacerbating periodontitis and eventually leading to tooth loss.

We already dispense good advice such as avoiding sugary drinks and snacks, but imagine the difference that offering tailored dietary advice might achieve. Dentistry is changing, healthcare is changing, as dental professionals I believe that we should be embracing a more holistic approach to healthcare.

We’re already well versed in oral health matters, but could we also be trained to dispense dietary advice and other useful information? If we could help cut the rates of obesity, it’s likely that periodontitis rates would fall too, leading to a healthier, happier society.


Michael Sultan is the founder and principal of endodontic referral practice EndoCare, and is a regular contributor to Dental Review. For more information, call 020 7224 0999 or visit www.endocare.co.uk 

See the original article here: Dental Industry Review