How Fast Food Impacts Your Patients’ Oral Health

Russell Roderick, DMD


Fast food has become a staple of modern eating. When your patients have a busy schedule, it is so much easier for them to hit the drive-through than prepare something fresh at home. Unfortunately, fast food is not the healthiest option, and you should discuss it with your patients. 

Not only can eating fast food lead to health problems, such as obesity and diabetes, it also can increase your patients’ risk of developing cavities and gum disease. If you have regular fast food eaters among your patients, you should share these examples of how it impacts their oral health.

  • Salt and sugar are bad for oral health. The primary reason why fast food is so bad for oral health is the added salt and sugar found in it. When your patients eat these foods, debris is more likely to stick to their teeth. This food debris allows acids to build up along the surface of their teeth. Eventually, this causes tooth decay and cavities.
  • Soda pop can wear down tooth enamel. When your patients grab a cheeseburger at a fast food restaurant, they will probably order a soda pop. The sugars found in carbonated beverages will break down the enamel of their teeth and make them more prone to tooth decay and cavities.
  • Diabetes can impact gum health. As mentioned, eating fast food on a regular basis can increase the risk of developing diabetes. Diabetes can also lead to dental problems. Studies have shown that people suffering from diabetes are at higher risk of developing periodontal disease. It is important for patients who already suffer from diabetes to maintain good blood glucose control, which can help prevent its impact on their oral health.
  • Find alternatives to fast food. If you want to help your patients protect their teeth and promote good oral hygiene for the rest of their family, you should help them look for alternatives to fast food. Even if they do not think that they have the time to prepare fresh meals at home, there are other ways for them to get their nutrition without damaging their teeth. When your patients need to eat out, they should choose items that are less likely to stick to their teeth such as salads and other fresh food. They should also avoid soda pop and other carbonated beverages. Instead, they can save money and their teeth by ordering water.
  • Use proper oral hygiene habits. It is also a good idea to encourage your patients to practice good oral hygiene. They do not need to completely give up fast food, but they can decrease the damage that it causes. For example, advise them to always brush their teeth and floss after eating fast food, but wait until about 30 minutes after they have eaten. If they do not have a toothbrush and floss available, they can chew on sugarless gum. Removing the buildup of food debris can limit the harm caused by eating fast food.

The Bottom Line

Fast food can be bad for your patients’ teeth. Poor oral health has a negative impact on overall health. As with anything, advise your patients to practice moderation. If they choose to eat fast food, do your best to help them limit its impact. They can have a cheeseburger every now and again, but their primary focus should be a healthy smile.

Dr. Roderick is a graduate of the Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine and the Pacific Aesthetic Continuum. He has invested more than 2,000 hours in quality continuing education, concentrating on aesthetics, cosmetic dentistry, restorative dental implants, periodontal therapy, and oral care as it relates to cardiac and systemic diseases. He has earned his Fellowship in the AGD, and he is on the track to earning his Mastership. Additionally, he has earned his Advanced Education in General Dentistry Certificate from the University of Missouri at Kansas City School of Dentistry. He holds memberships with the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, ADA, Arizona Dental Association, and Central Arizona Dental Society. He can be reached at or via email at

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