Fighting obesity is on everybody’s minds these days. The American Surgeon General has called obesity an epidemic. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of deaths worldwide and often a result of obesity. But there is good news. It seems that a new force has joined in the crusade against obesity: dentistry.
Dentistry and Obesity: The Study
This great news comes from recent research conducted by the Yale School of Public Health. They’ve found that counties with a higher number of dentists per capita have markedly lower rates of obesity than their fellow counties, even within the same state. The Journal of the American Dental Association published the study. It analyzed data from over 2,800 counties across the United States. Among the factors considered were the percentage of obese adults—those with a body mass index of 30 or greater—and the number of primary care physicians and dentists per 10,000 people.
Dentistry and Obesity: The Results
The study discovered that when comparing counties with the same population size, counties that had an extra dentist for every 10,000 people had a 1-percentage point lower rate of obesity than the counties without as many. The data was found to be statistically significant and now raises a number of questions.
Lead author Jessica Holzer, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Yale, said that while the relationship between dentistry and obesity is still not fully understood, it might be associated with additional resources in a county or better general health behaviors among county citizens. It could also be the case that dentists take an active role in discussing obesity with their patients, leading to positive impacts on healthy behaviors.
It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. Dentists are concerned with the types of food people, especially children, are eating. The foods of chief concern are sugary ones or carbs that can be easily broken down into sugars int he mouth. These same foods are implicated in obesity such as sugar-sweetened beverages (soda, sweetened juices) and high-sugar foods. In warning patients to avoid these foods, dentists could be incidentally contributing to reduced obesity.
At the moment, the connection between dentistry and obesity is still far from fully understood. But the data is compelling and the reasoning for dentists’ contribution to reduced obesity do make a lot of sense. We will just have to see what further research and the future will bring.
Dr. Potts is a gentle, caring dentist who uses the most advanced materials and procedures available. He practices comfortable, health-centered dentistry, with a strong emphasis on getting to know each patient. In addition to his technical proficiency, Dr. Potts is a careful listener. He makes sure to understand what you want and will explain beforehand what treatment is best for your individual needs, along with all options available to you. Check out our Twitter, Facebook page, and website.