Soft Drinks Link Obesity and Tooth Wear

Dentistry Today


There is a clear association between obesity and tooth wear, and the increased consumption of sugary soft drinks may be a leading cause of the erosion of enamel and dentin among obese adults, according to researchers at King’s College London.

Drawing on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003-2004, the researchers analyzed a representative sample of 3,541 survey participants in the United States. Patient body mass index and the level of tooth wear were the exposure and outcome measurements in the analysis.

The intake of sugar-sweetened acidic drinks was recorded through two non-consecutive 24-hour recall interviews where the patients were asked to provide details of diet intake across those two days.

“It is the acidic nature of some drinks such as carbonated drinks and acidic fruit juices that leads to tooth wear,” said lead author Saoirse O’Toole, PhD, clinical lecturer in prosthodontics at the King’s College London Faculty of Dentistry, Oral & Clinical Sciences.

Tooth wear is the third most important dental condition, the researchers report, after cavities and gum disease. Acidic food and drink consumption is the leading cause of tooth wear. Obese patients also have other risk factors such as increased likelihood of gastric reflux disease, which was controlled for in this study.

“This is an important message for obese patients who are consuming calories through acidic sugar-sweetened drinks. These drinks may be doing damage to their body and their teeth,” O’Toole said.

“There is also an important message for dentists. We should be asking our patients who are obese and have tooth wear what calories they are drinking, as this may be having an effect on their full bodies, not just their teeth,” O’Toole said.

Previous research from the school has found that tooth wear affects up to 30% of European adults, due to the softening of enamel from dietary or gastric acids, combined with wear and tear. Tooth wear can lead to changes in the shape or appearance of teeth, which then can become sensitive when eating or drinking cold food and drinks.

At its worst, the researchers said, tooth structure can gradually wear away. Severe erosive tooth wear reduces quality of life and can mean complex and costly procedures, the researchers added, though it is preventable through changes in consumption habits. 

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