The American public generally has a good idea of what contributes to obesity. Very few people believe, for example, that eating a box of cookies will ultimately be good for your stomach. But more and more, we’re seeing some unorthodox explanations as to what may be contributing to obesity. One of those suggestions: the quality of food and the bacterial flora happily existing in your mouth.
It might seem like the most innocuous of relationships, but the more you discover about the relationship between your teeth and your risk of obesity, the more you may pause and think. Let’s explore the link between your teeth and your waistline to see if this is truly something to consider or just a coincidence.
Finding the Link between Oral Bacteria and Obesity
Much of the hubbub around teeth and obesity comes from a 2009 study in the JOurnal of Dental Research (1). The study came to the following conclusion:
Classification tree analysis of salivary microbiological composition revealed that 98.4% of the overweight women could be identified by the presence of a single bacterial species (Selenomonas noxia) at levels greater than 1.05% of the total salivary bacteria.
In other words, there was an association discovered between the greater presence of a bacterial species in the mouth and the presence of obesity. The study included a “control” group of non-obese patients who were found to have less of the bacteria present in their systems. Here is an actual report of one person’s oral microbiome she had mapped at a laboratory in China.
Of course, the study doesn’t definitively prove that these bacteria cause obesity, but there may be a link between the causes of obesity and the reason these bacteria seem to thrive in the teeth of the obese.
Finding the Associations in Oral Hygiene and Body Weight Health
Previously, it’s been reported that flossing may help to prevent heart disease. Clearly there is something that links a series of ill health effects with the presence of bacteria in the gums and teeth. But what exactly is going on?
The cause may lie in the general diet of the obese. It’s well established in dental communities that sugary beverages and foods aren’t good for the teeth; they contribute to rot and generally feed bacteria that tend to grow in the teeth. Eating a cookie won’t only contribute to your waistline, but it will promote the growth of bacteria in your mouth.
Does this mean that the bacteria in your mouth are making you fat? Scientifically, there’s no proof for that – only the association discovered such as in the study above. It may be that obesity and oral bacteria are both the result of poor, sugar-rich and processed diets.
If this is true, then switching to a less-processed diet that is also lower in sugar may not only help you lose weight but also help you to restore your gums and teeth to their ideal level of hygiene. By not eating the foods that grow your belly – and the bacteria in your mouth – your body will become healthier overall.
Rebecca Fletcher works with Raleigh Dentist and is an avid blogger about dentistry, preserving our world and kids health.