Stronger Teeth = Better Health

Dental health can dictate food choice.

Charles W Martin By Charles W Martin, DDS

Stronger teeth and the ability to chew a wider variety of healthy foods can lead you to better health and weight loss. I've had many patients who have diabetes get their teeth fixed and then start to lose weight, simply because they can eat better foods without oral pain. But the strength of your teeth and your ability to chew can be threatened by gum disease, and as a person with diabetes you're at higher risk of developing gum disease.

If you have healthy teeth they can do the job they were designed to do; that can improve your diet. You can eat a greater variety of foods, both the foods you like and the foods that are good for you which, ideally, are one and the same. Food choices made by people who have poor teeth tend to be softer so they cause less pain during chewing. Softer foods tend to be denser in calories, fat and refined carbohydrates, which are readily converted into high levels of blood glucose.

When you have stronger teeth it's easier to eat firm foods. That makes it easier to follow dietary guidelines for diabetes and include more fruits and vegetables, which are lower calorie and put complex carbohydrates in your diet. The result – you avoid the big spike of blood sugar that you get with foods loaded with refined carbohydrates. This often produces a significant improvement in your blood glucose control. A frequent side effect is that as these foods are digested more slowly, you are satisfied for a longer period of time after each meal. When you're less hungry, you tend to snack less on high-fat, high refined carb, high-calorie foods that spike your blood glucose and pile on weight.

Research has confirmed that diabetes makes gum disease more severe. The effects of gum disease include deeper pockets in the gums around the teeth, more loss of bone, and more loss of the ligaments that connect the teeth to the bone. This is especially true if your diabetes is not under control and if you've had diabetes for many years. The earlier you develop diabetes and the longer you've had it, the more destructive gum disease can be. If you've had problems controlling your diabetes, you can also be more susceptible to developing gum disease.

One study found that adults with diabetes have four times the bone loss from gum disease than those who don't have diabetes. This occurs in the bone structure that forms the pocket that cradles the tooth to keep it stable and healthy so it can do its job. If you lose the bone, you're well on the way to losing the tooth. Studies show that adults with diabetes have higher rates of tooth loss from gum disease than those without diabetes. By the time your teeth are in jeopardy, you have also increased your risk of diabetes complications, which are significantly more serious threats to your health.

Decrease your risk of complications. Take care of your teeth.

Read Dr. Charles Martin's bio here.

Read more of Dr. Martin's columns.

NOTE: The information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional medical advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition. 

Last Modified Date: July 01, 2013

All content on is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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by Brenda Bell
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