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News / July 13, 2009

Tooth decay may flag up ill health

by Guy Hiscott

Dental disease may be a warning that your diet is harming your body.

Research suggests that dental pain may be flagging up future medical problems and provide a warning that a high glycaemic diet that lead to dental problems in the short term may, in the long term, lead to potentially serious chronic diseases.

The high glycaemic (high GI) carbohydrates break down quickly to release sugar.


As well as being linked to diabetes and liver disease, they also increase sugar levels in the mouth leading to dental problems.


High GI foods include sticky cakes, doughnuts, biscuits, and sweets, but also some fruits, as well as starchy potatoes, white rice and bread, and pasta.


A high GI diet is widely believed to be associated with poor blood sugar control and an increased risk of diabetes.


Some experts suspect abnormal blood sugar might play a role in many different disorders, ranging from Alzheimer’s to pancreatic cancer. Rates of some of these conditions have been correlated with dental disease.


Prof Hujoel, from the University of Washington School of Dentistry in Seattle, US, said: ‘There is fascinating evidence that suggests that the higher the glycaemic level of a food, the more it will drop the acidity of dental plaque, and the higher it will raise blood sugar.


‘So, possibly, dental decay may really be a marker for the chronic high glycaemic diets that lead to both dental decay and chronic systemic diseases. This puts a whole new light on studies that have linked dental diseases to such diverse illnesses as Alzheimer’s disease and pancreatic cancer.’


Hujoel reviewed the relationships between diet, dental disease, and chronic systemic illness in a report published in the July issue of the Journal of Dental Research.


He was weighing up the two contradictory viewpoints on the role of dietary carbohydrates in health and disease.


One viewpoint is that certain fermentable carbohydrates are beneficial to general health and that the harmful dental consequences of such a diet should be managed by good oral hygiene.


A contrasting viewpoint suggests that fermentable carbohydrates are bad for both dental and general health, and that both dental and general health need to be maintained by restricting fermentable carbohydrates.