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Soda consumption may be common link between obesity, tooth decay

A new study links sugary drinks to two common health problems in American adults -- tooth decay and obesity -- suggesting the two could be related.

By Brian P. Dunleavy
New research suggests that tooth wear and obesity could have at least one common link -- sugar-sweetened beverages. File Photo by Milenafoto/Wikimedia Commons
New research suggests that tooth wear and obesity could have at least one common link -- sugar-sweetened beverages. File Photo by Milenafoto/Wikimedia Commons

Oct. 28 (UPI) -- If you're looking to lose weight and improve the health of your teeth, limiting your intake of soda and other sugary soft drinks may do the trick.

That's the underlying message of a study published Monday by the dental industry journal Clinical Oral Investigations that links obesity and the presence of "tooth wear," or dental erosion, in American adults to consumption of sweetened, acidic drinks.

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The American Dental Association defines dental erosion as "the irreversible loss of dental hard tissue" -- tooth enamel, for example -- and it's considered the third most important dental condition, after cavities and gum disease.

"The important message for [people who are] obese is that the calories they are drinking may be doing harm to their teeth, not just their bodies," study co-author Saoirse O'Toole, a dentist and lecturer in the Faculty of Dentistry, Oral & Clinical Sciences at King's College London, told UPI.

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O'Toole and her colleagues analyzed data from 3,541 American adults collected in 2003-04 from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a database maintained by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those included in the study were, on average, roughly 44 years of age, and approximately two thirds were either overweight or obese, based on body mass index.

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Overall, more than 12 percent of the adults studied had moderate to severe tooth wear, with an average of 3.4 tooth surfaces affected. In those who regularly drank soda and other soft drinks, the number of teeth affected by wear was 1.4 times higher per sugary beverage consumed per day. Conversely, consumption of unsweetened, non-carbonated drinks seemed to reduce levels of moderate-to-severe tooth wear, the authors reported.

"[As] dentists... we should be asking our patients who are obese and/or have tooth wear what calories they are drinking," O'Toole noted. "I think the message... is to limit acidic drinks. We don't have any evidence to suggest that the occasional drink will cause harm."

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