There has always been a link between missing teeth and poor nutrition. After all, chewing is the first step in the digestive process. It breaks down food into smaller pieces and mixes it with saliva. Our ability to chew also determines the variety of foods we eat, which is important to getting a well-balanced diet.
Now there's evidence that body weight is related to how good our chewing apparatus is.
Studies from Egypt and Canada suggest poor dentition may lead to obesity. In one study researchers reported that those with only 21 out of their original 32 teeth were 3 times more likely to become overweight. They concluded that part of the weight gain can be attributed to the inability to chew whole fruits, vegetables and other fiber-rich foods that are typically lower in calories.
Another way to look at it is that chewing takes time and slows down the rate at which we can consume calories. Softer foods are easy to eat and go down quickly.
The good news for the baby boomer generation is that we are the first to have benefited from water fluoridation and fluoride toothpaste since childhood, according to the Centers for Disease Control. This means the majority of us can look forward to having our pearly whites for our entire lives.
Getting Ready for a Life Time of Eating
There really are no short cuts to the timeless advice to brush after meals and floss daily. Practicing good oral hygiene and getting regular dental exams is the best way to preserve your oral health.
Dentures and replacements are not the answer. They're expensive, have their own maintenance problems, and may never provide the same chewing ability as your own choppers. Research has also shown that use of dentures is associated with declining nutritional status, loss of taste and digestive problems.
As a quick reminder of what you can do to enjoy a lifetime of healthy eating, here's a review from the American Dental Association (ADA).
Best dental care products and practices from the ADA:
- Manual Toothbrush - They come in a range of prices and styles, but the most important feature is the ADA label of approval. Most dentists recommend a soft bristle and replacement every three months.
- Powered Toothbrush - This is a good option for those who have difficulty maneuvering a manual toothbrush properly. A rotary head motion that is passed over each tooth is better than cruising across the surface.
- Tooth paste - It's an abrasive, so can damage soft tissues if you brush too hard. Those with added fluoride help strengthen and repair small cracks in teeth where cavities develop.
- Floss - It should glide easily between each tooth and not be used as a saw.
- Mouth Wash - Those containing antimicrobial agents and fluoride can reduce bacterial count and tooth decay. Avoid those with alcohol since it can dry the mouth making it more susceptible to bacteria.