You might blame your weight gain on what you’re putting in your mouth, but the truth might be that it’s your mouth that’s the problem. It’s an illustration of the complex, reciprocal relationship between oral health and your overall health. From encouraging unhealthy behaviors to directly triggering weight gain, an unhealthy mouth can definitely contribute to your weight gain.
Are You Avoiding Healthy Foods?
If your teeth and gums hurt, you’re going to stay away from foods that make them hurt worse. Unfortunately, that includes a lot of healthy foods. Foods like fresh fruits and vegetables. Crisp fruits and vegetables are hard to eat with sore teeth and gums, and the acid in some of these foods can be painful on sensitive gums. And meat can also be a problem, with fibers that get caught between your teeth and can irritate your teeth and gums.
So what are you eating instead? It’s likely a lot more processed foods. Processed foods include a lot of unhealthy carbs — especially sugars — and fats. These are easy to eat, but they can be hard on your body–and your teeth. The extra sugar you’re consuming contributes to more tooth decay. Plus with a diet like that, it’s easy to gain weight.
Is It Hard for You to Exercise?
It’s not just that you’re eating unhealthy foods. If you have an unhealthy mouth, you might find it hard to exercise. Gum disease is a chronic infection, kind of like having a cold or the flu all the time. Think about how your last cold sapped the energy from your workout. Now imagine that you’re actually experiencing that every day. You just don’t know if because you think that’s your normal.
Something else that could be sapping your energy is diabetes. Diabetes contributes to your risk of gum disease, but gum disease, in turn, can make diabetes worse. Diabetes isn’t just about blood sugar–it’s a dysfunction in the way your body processes and uses energy. And it can make it harder for you to find the energy to get out and exercise.
Inflammation Contributes to Weight Gain
Inflammation is a big piece of this complex interaction between obesity, diabetes, and oral health. Inflammatory proteins are important signals in your body’s immune response, so when you have a chronic infection like gum disease, your body is releasing a lot more inflammatory compounds. These inflammatory proteins interfere with some of the important hormones–such as leptin–that help our body regulate energy use and weight loss. Inflammation can also contribute to chronic fatigue, making it harder to start or maintain a good exercise routine.
So inflammation today is associated with future weight gain. But here’s where things get especially bad: fat cells also release inflammatory proteins. So not only does having fat make it more likely that you’ll gain weight, it can ramp up your body’s immune response to oral bacteria, which just makes the situation worse.
A Healthy Mouth Leads to a Healthy Body
This interaction between unhealthy teeth, gum disease, and weight gain is just one of the many ways that your oral health might be sabotaging your overall health. Sometimes the interactions are subtle, and often they’re complex, but as we come to understand them, we can break the cycle and help you achieve a healthier lifestyle that takes care of mouth, body, and spirit.
Holistic dentistry looks for these connections and how to treat it not just as a separate phenomenon, but as part of an overall whole. Treating oral health problems the right way can dramatically improve your dental experience and the results you enjoy.