Dental disease may be a wake-up call that your diet is harming your body.
"The five-alarm fire bell of a tooth ache is difficult to ignore," says Dr. Philippe P. Hujoel, professor of dental public health sciences at the University of Washington (UW) School of Dentistry in Seattle. Beyond the immediate distress, dental pain may portend future medical problems. It may be a warning that the high-glycemic diet that led to dental problems in the short term may, in the long term, lead to potentially serious chronic diseases.
Hujoel reviewed the relationships between diet, dental disease, and chronic systemic illness in a report published July 1 in the Journal of Dental Research. He weighed two contradictory viewpoints on the role of dietary carbohydrates in health and disease. The debate surrounds fermentable carbohydates: foods that turn into simple sugars in the mouth. Fermentable carbohydrates are not just sweets like cookies, doughnuts, cake and candy. They also include bananas and several tropical fruits, sticky fruits like raisins and other dried fruits, and starchy foods like potatoes, refined wheat flour, yams, rice, pasta, pretzels, bread, and corn.
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 the tools found in the oral hygiene section of drugstores. 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.
The differing perspectives on the perceived role of dietary carbohydrates have resulted in opposing approaches to dental disease prevention, Hujoel notes, and have prompted debates in interpreting the link between dental diseases and such systemic diseases as obesity, diabetes, and some forms of cancer.
Over the past twenty y
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University of Washington