Well, many of them must be wondering how that can be possible. But if we look over the past 2-3 decades, the mortality rate has increased to its next level, obesity being one of the rising causes. In 1990, the World Health Organization considered obesity as a global epidemic. And guess who made it go globally that vast? We humans did. Irregular eating habits, irregular sleep patterns, stressful life and not maintaining overall health is leading to an unsatisfactory life.
Talking about obesity, what is more important for the body? Nutritionist are vital to human development and maintaining health. 7 essential nutrients a body needs are water, carbohydrates, proteins, amino acids, fats, vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fatty acids.
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What exactly is obesity and why is it an important topic that everyone should be aware of? In simple terms, it means abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health. And it is an important concept in our day-to-day lives because of health consequences. Thus, in today’s generation an individual’s life is more interconnected to one’s personality, lifestyle, socioeconomic status, and social interactions.
Recently heard of benign obesity? It is a term sometimes used to describe a condition in which an individual is overweight or obese but does not suffer from any co-morbidities, such as diabetes, hypertension etc. Our daily lifestyle choices have a direct connection to whether or not a person is prone to facing obesity.
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Asking about if obesity is hereditary? Then, genes aren’t the most worrisome risk of obesity. An individual’s upbringing can be, the way the family raises, the daily food intake, importance placed on physical activity and how a person would take their behaviour model, are the bigger influences on likelihood of obesity than genes. Health is not valued till sickness comes, true isn’t? Obesity is not because it runs in the family!! It is because no one runs in the family!!!
Today, more than 95% of all chronic diseases is caused by food choice. Yes,being overweight is linked to a number of health and oral health diseases, including: heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, gallbladder and gallstones, breathing problems, such as sleep apnea (when a person stops breathing for a short time during sleep) and asthma, oral health problems such as caries, halitosis, poor oral hygiene, periodontal disease. Symptoms for obesity include breathlessness, Increased sweating, snoring, inability to cope with sudden physical activity, feeling tired, back and joint pain, low confidence and self-esteem, and feeling isolated.
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After being aware of the risks, proper health and oral hygiene should be maintained. And why is maintaining diet an important factor? Because a poor diet may result in lack of essential nutrients and vitamins thus potentially making it more difficult for your body to fight off an infection. A diet high in fat and calories, including large quantities of processed foods or sugar, and lack of physicalactivity, leads to obesity. Those same foods can cause oral health problems including gum disease, premature tooth loss and bad breath Our body craves for what is in our bloodstream. Wheat, sugar, alcohol, coffee and de-vitalized foods are designed to be addictive. Sugar being addictive – agreed. But how does sugar affect an individual’s health and oral health? Well, consuming sugar is bad for an individual, but consuming too much has become a norm and that can cause health issues. The only type of sugar the body needs is glucose, which it can make by breaking down carbohydrates, proteins and fats. When ingested, simple sugars are converted into plaque if not removed immediately. As plaque begins to accumulate on our teeth and gums, the risk of varying forms of gum diseases such a gingivitis and periodontitis, as well as tooth decay, may become inevitable.
In 2018, a study revealed that 170 children and young people have rotten teeth removed every day, undergoing general anaesthesia. That’s an unpleasant operation that is completely avoidable; we have got a lot of evidence to show that the main cause is excessive sugar. There are also links with type 2 diabetes, usually chronic disease seen in adults, but we are seeing more and more under the age of 25 these days.
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So, what an oral health care professional should be aware of? Dentists must be aware of how nutrition impacts general and oral health, and how dental treatment can impact patient’s nutritional status. Oral health is strongly influenced by the daily intake of food; on the other hand, oral health can also play a significant role in nutritional intake and general health status. The dental caries is also a chronic disease and may be depend on oral hygiene, high intake of sugar added to food, lifestyle factor, and host factors (salivary flow, buffer capacity and buccal microflora). Relationship between obesity and gum disease – we actually don’t know if this is a one-way or a two-way street. For example, conditions like diabetes, the relationship is bilateral. Periodontal disease will affect diabetes and diabetes will worsen periodontal disease, so that could be a possibility here. What are the other reasons of obesity affecting gums and what would be its risk factors? Because of various dietary habits and improper maintenance of oral hygiene, chronic periodontal infection is an inflammatory state that is described by a deviation in microbial environment and composition of subgingival plaque bio films and accelerated destruction of tooth supporting structures. Thus, low glycaemic diet may be beneficial to our oral health. Periodontal diseases are also influenced by various risk factors including aging, smoking, oral hygiene, socio-economic status, psycho social stress, osteopenia, osteoporosis and various systemic diseases, which signifies that periodontitis does not merely occur as a consequence of plaque deposition but is also coupled with various other host factors. Also, on examination, obese adolescents exhibited multiple carious teeth, higher plaque index, gingival inflammation, bleeding on probing and probing depth compared to normal weight subjects of similar age.
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An obese patient, whose lungs are often not large enough to lift heavy chest walls, can have trouble during breathing, especially when active. Also, during sleep the person might breathe through his/her mouth instead of nose, thus jaw is forced into an unnatural position for a longer period of time. This can lead to teeth grinding and development of an overbite, over jet or spacing between the anterior teeth.How can we, as dentists, help the obese patients? Dentists should include the evaluation of BMI in routine patient examination and eventually refer obese periodontal adolescents for weight reduction interventions like diet therapy, behavioural therapy, pharmacotherapy, so that they can have better control over periodontal inflammation.What are the practical considerations in dentistry? It can be difficult carrying out dental care for an obese patient: the maximum lifting weight for modern dental chair is approximately 140kg (23 stones). The position of anatomical landmarks may be less obvious if surrounded by fatty tissue, the landmarks for placement of an inferior alveolar nerve block can be impossible to palpate through excess soft tissue. It may be impossible to palpate cervical lymph nodes in a large neck. Also due to constant secretion of saliva, the mouth and teeth are rinsed and kept free off food debris and foreign particles, thus excess of buccal pad of fat hinders with self-cleansing action in the mouth. Because of lack of saliva present in the mouth, it can lead to dry mouth. Sip water frequently throughout the day and use alcohol-free antiseptic mouthwash daily for cure. A normal sized mirror is unsafe for retraction of soft tissues: a ‘lax’ tongue retractor can be useful.What is the alternative to conventional dental chair? Refer the patient to the hospital environment where the patient may be treated on an operating table or trolley. Another possible solution for obese patients is a custom-made chair such as DIACO dental chair. What is the difficulty faced during conscious sedation? When thinking about conscious sedation for obese patients, the potential difficulties in airway management and intravenous cannulation should be considered. The provision of inhalation sedation with nitrous oxide during which oxygen levels are maintained at or above 30% may be more appropriate. If intravenous sedation with midazolam is proposed, the overall benefit to the patient must be carefully weighed up against the increased likelihood of significant respiratory depression and the difficulties in managing a respiratory complication. New research suggests that the health of your mouth mirrors the condition of your body as a whole. A healthy smile can surely transform our visual appearance and the positivity of our mind-set.
‘Eat every two hours, sleep eight hours, have plenty of water and pray to keep calm. Most importantly, carry a smile on your face.’
About the author
Dr. Vishaj S. Maru is a dental surgeon. She studied dentistry at the D.Y. Patil School of Dentistry. She does clinical practice in Mumbai with a keen interest in academia and clinical dentistry.