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February 8,  2002

Obesity Overtaking Smoking as Greatest Threat to Oral, General Health


 (SafetyAlerts) - A In the 1990s it was cigarette smoking but today, obesity may soon surpass smoking as the single greatest threat to oral health, warned the American Dental Hygienists' Association (ADHA).

"Snacking on food with a high sugar content is a major reason 60 percent of Americans are overweight or obese," according to ADHA President Ann Naber, RDH. "As a result, they pay a much higher price to maintain their oral and general health."

For instance, poor oral hygiene habits and eating too much junk food are the biggest factors in promoting dental cavities -- the single most chronic childhood condition, Naber said.

Dental cavities affect five times more children than asthma and seven times more children than hayfever, according to the Surgeon General's report on oral health.

And when people eat a high-sugar diet, Naber explained that cavity-causing microorganisms called Streptococcus Mutans (S. Mutans) are able to produce more of the lactic acids responsible for destroying tooth enamel.

But the two easiest ways of preventing cavities is to eat a healthy diet and to maintain good oral hygiene habits, Naber said.

For example, choosing fruits and vegetables over sweetened snacks means there is less sugar for the harmful organisms to metabolize, she said.

Naber also suggested brushing and flossing immediately following meals because it helps stop S. Mutans from converting sugar into acids.

Naber pointed to U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher's recent warning that 155 million Americans are either overweight or obese, while 192 million Americans suffer from poor oral health, as further evidence of the connection between poor diet and chronic oral infection.

"However with a balanced diet, good nutrition and regular oral hygiene care, Americans can dramatically improve their oral and total health," Naber said.

Source: PRNewswire

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