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Food for Thought: The Relationship Between Oral Health and Nutrition

Course Number: 583


Teenagers often make the least healthy food choices, which may be influenced by peers, social media, and diet trends. Recent studies show 40% of teenagers receive their daily calories from soda, fruit juices, dairy desserts, fried food and pizza.11 Females by this time have reached their maximum linear growth and begin to increase their percentage of body fat. Males on the other hand are still building muscle and bone mass, their energy needs are greatly accelerated and can consume 4,000 calories each day just to maintain current body weight. When counseling this age encourage healthy snacks-nuts, popcorn, cereal, cheese, and fruit. Educate teenagers, with the use of visual aids, about the negative effects of soda and energy drink consumption on tooth and bone health. Also consider this is an impressionable time when eating disorders, smoking, drugs and alcohol consumption can impair physical and emotional health where professional counseling may be warranted.

According to the National Eating Disorders Organization, those afflicted with this mental disorder include 70 million people worldwide, 30 million in the United States.31 Two thirds are young females ages 15-24 with remaining one-third being males, children, and the elderly.31 The major categories include anorexia nervosa, (AN) bulimia nervosa, (BN) binge eating disorder, (BED) and other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED), which include anorexia athletic, body dysmorphic disorder, and pica. This epidemic has many factors which may start with emotional triggers and are often combined with substance abuse, anxiety, and depression. As a bio-physio-social disorder, treatment strategies include a multi-discipline approach of psychiatric nature. Dental care is part of the recovery process. Pain from erosion, dentinal sensitivity, and caries is addressed by meeting restorative needs. Dental preventive strategies include using a home fluoride rinse, limiting intake of acidic beverages, and using desensitizing agents for tooth sensitivity.

Erosion caused by chronic vomiting in bulimia

Figure 12. Erosion caused by chronic vomiting in bulimia.

Image source: ©2003 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.