Could Your Smile Be Making You Fat?

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Obesity has long been considered a problem of dietary concern.

However, new research has shown that it begins with not only what goes in, but also on in, your mouth. In fact, a study by a scientific team at The Forsyth Institute, a leading research institution in oral health and related biomedical sciences, has discovered new links between certain oral bacteria and obesity. While preliminary, this research may provide important clues to the interactions between imbalances by certain bacteria in the oral biofilm, the natural ecological community in the mouth, and the pathology of obesity. One particular bacteria found in the oral biofilms of almost all the overweight individuals in the study, Selenomanas noxia, left open the possibility that certain oral bacteria may be responsible for weight gain, and a corresponding inability to lose weight.

In a report out this past week from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), obesity has been skyrocketing in the United States since the 1980s and now found to affect more than 72 million Americans, or two-thirds of the population, and about a third of all adults. Obesity rates in the United States were the highest of the 33 countries with advanced economies that were examined making us the "fattest country on earth" as stated by USA Today. The economic toll of that distinction is equally horrifying, with medical bills related to obesity "weighing in" at $147 billion in 2008.

The connections between dental caries (cavities), periodontal (gum) disease and obesity have been well-known. Studies have now found a higher association between obesity and gum disease among younger adults, ages 18-34 years, because of deficient dietary patterns than those older adults. Research in the dietary trends of even younger adolescents, ages 11-18, also reveals a startling decrease in raw fruit and non-potato vegetables, which are sources of vitamin C. In fact, adolescents have decreased their calcium intake, and increased their intake of soft drinks and non-citrus juices resulting in malnutrition. Low dietary intake of calcium and vitamin C is associated with increased prevalence of periodontal disease. Sugar consumption, particularly the frequent ingestion of refined carbohydrates, is directly related to dental caries and obesity.

It's time for all of us to take some simple steps to turn the corner to improve our oral health and reverse the plague of obesity on ourselves, and even more urgently, on our children. Here are my four simple steps to improve oral health, reduce obesity and keep us safely smiling_

Get the 'junk out of the trunk.'It's time to clean out the fridge and the pantry of the hidden sugars and acids. Remember that although diet soft drinks do not contain sugar, they do contain both carbonic and phosphoric acids - creating an environment favorable to weight gain, and oral disease.

Go lean and green. Count your calories - you'll be amazed at the hidden calories in many so-called "healthy natural" snacks. Instead, increase your intake of organic fruits and veggies.

Get more active. The sedentary behaviors like watching TV, video games and computer activity only increases binging frequency, and also the pounds you put on and cavities that you get.

Get a grip.Uncontrolled stress not only causes emotional eating but also creates an environment that is favorable to oral disease. Become more mindful through activities such as meditation, prayer, and yoga. Dr. Gerry Curatola is a renowned aesthetic dentist and pioneer in the emerging field of rejuvenation dentistry, which improves patients' overall health and appearance by integrating total wellness with cutting edge oral care and restorative procedures. In addition to his private practice, research, and work as a Clinical Associate Professor at NYU College of Dentistry, he is an internationally sought after speaker, author and expert who has been featured widely in print and broadcast media. For more information, go to