Does Dental Health Improve with Weight Loss?


One-third of adult Americans are classified as obese and are suffering a decline in health as a result. Research conducted by the Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine has found that those who successfully shed the pounds will not only decrease the odds of developing medical conditions including diabetes and heart disease, but will also dramatically improve their dental health by making a body more efficient in fighting gum disease.

The connection between excess pounds and increased levels of tooth decay and gum disease has been common knowledge for years. The higher-than levels of the oral bacteria called Selenomonas noxia present in overweight folks is the cause of many dental problems as the critters produce a tooth-eroding acid as side effect of breaking down simple sugars deposited on teeth after eating or drinking. During the most recent research, a pilot study being conducting my University scientists, has indicated that the gum inflammation associated with dental problems decreases with weight loss.

About the Study

A total of 31 obese people participated and were analyzed for the study. Half of the individuals that had a body mass index of 39 underwent gastric bypass surgery, had abdominal fat cells removed and dental treatments for gum disease. The control group (comprised of the other half of the group) only received dental treatments for gum disease. The individual who underwent both the weight loss surgery and had received the scaling and root planing implemented by professional dentists had significantly lower levels of gum inflammation as a result.

Both sets of study participants showed improvement in their dental health after receiving the professional dental care and following a strict, at-home oral hygiene regiment of brushing and flossing daily. However, those who also had their weight issue addressed, showed a greater marked improvement in dental health, specifically in regards to “…periodontal attachment, bleeding, probing depths and plaque levels,” (Case Western Reserve University, “Lose the fat and improve the gums, dental researchers find.” ScienceDaily, 9 Nov. 2011. Web. 15 Nov. 2011.).

Theories Surrounding the Weight/Dental Health Connection

Based on their findings, the scientists have developed two theories as to the weight loss/dental health connection:

  • Scientists hypothesis that fat cells product higher levels of cytokines (protein molecules). Those molecules can prevent insulin from transporting glucose from blood and in turn, will increase blood sugar levels. However, weight loss will help the body regain a healthy insulin production, lowering blood sugar levels, the levels of oral bacteria associated with the relationship and in turn improve dental health.
  • Researchers also theorize that the appetite-regulating hormone called leptin can also be at the core of the relationship. The hormone is essential for bodily metabolic functions and can also increase cytokines production. The surgery (that also included the removal of fat cells) lowered the production of cytokines and that potentially could have lowered the inflammatory response in the patients that did not have the weight loss surgery.

The team is going to continuing exploring the existing data and plan on conducting a long-term study in order to develop a clear cut explanation for the weight loss improved gum disease connection.

Lose Weight and Improve Dental Health

Individuals struggling with their weight and dental health can start the process of improving the situation, one calorie at a time. There are risks associated with every type of surgery, including gastric-bypass. Individuals looking to avoid going under the knife should visit both a doctor and dentist to gain the professional advice on how to naturally target weight loss and improving dental health.

Chances are that a doctor will recommended making smart dietary changes (not diet fads that can destroy dental health) to improve nutrition and energy and suggest incorporating some type of exercise to help burn excess calories. A dentist may encourage patients to step up their oral hygiene and too get professional dental cleanings in order to lower levels of dental plaque and tartar as the connection between dental health and weight loss cannot be denied.

Individuals looking to find a dentist to help with both dental health and weight management can call WH Family Dental 24/7 to get the name of a qualified dental care provider up to the task.