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Nutrition and oral health are inextricably linked

Nutrition and oral health are inextricably linked.

Nutrition and oral health are inextricably linked. Poor oral health can affect an individual’s ability to eat certain nutritious foods while poor nutrition can increase an individual’s risk of poor oral health including periodontal disease and tooth loss. Periodontal disease has been linked to diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, and some types of cancer.  Tooth loss, which may or may not be related to periodontal disease, has been associated with an increased risk of a number of chronic diseases, including coronary heart disease and chronic kidney disease. It may also be associated with poor nutrient intake. Epidemiological evidence suggests a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can decrease the risk of coronary heart disease. Moreover a diet high in vitamin C, which is found in many of the fruits and vegetables that individuals with poor oral health might find difficult to eat, is protective against some types of cancers, including of the mouth. Thus, poor nutrient intake that originates from compromised dental status may result in a higher risk of chronic disease.

Replacing and maintaining natural teeth improves masticatory ability, allowing individuals to consume a varied and nutritious diet, and is a strategy to end the cycle that can set an individual on a trajectory for chronic disease development. However, while reconstructive periodontal surgery and/or implant placement can avoid limiting food choices due to poor dentition, many people refuse or delay these procedures for a number of reason. Identifying and implementing strategies to reduce fear and anxiety among patients could end the cycle by encouraging more patients to seek necessary treatment; leading to greater oral and overall health.

The association between periodontal disease and/or tooth loss and increased risk of chronic disease can, at least partially, be related to diet. It was found that individuals who are missing teeth tend to consume fewer servings of fruits and vegetables, less fiber, and more cholesterol. This may be because missing teeth can limit an individual’s food choices. It can also impact the method they choose to cook their foods. Foods that have a more healthful nutrient profile are often more difficult to masticate, particularly for older adults. Examples include fruits, raw vegetables, and meats.

The literature demonstrates that oral health status affects food and nutrient intake. It can influence the perceived ease with which individuals eat different foods and there is some evidence that individuals with fewer teeth avoid foods that can be considered difficult to chew. Individuals with fewer teeth have been found to have lower intake or status of some nutrients, such as vitamin C, compared to individuals with more teeth. Overall, missing teeth can have an effect on our food choices which can affect our nutrition which can have an effect on our overall health. Information based on a global study from Jennifer R. Beaudette,  Peter C. Fritz, Philip J. Sullivan, and Wendy E. Ward entitled “Oral Health, Nutritional Choices, and Dental Fear and Anxiety”