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Study links obesity and risk for cavities

If your child's diet and activity level put him or her at risk for obesity, they may also increase the risk for developing dental cavities, say researchers at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine.

The article "Dental Caries and Obesity in Children: Different Problems, Related Causes," explores possible relationships between obesity and dental decay in children.

The causes of obesity and decay are slightly different, says Carole A. Palmer, R.D., but they share common denominators. Common factors include a more sedentary lifestyle that emphasizes video and computer games, television watching and reduced school physical education programs; more frequent snacking on sugary and fatty foods and easier access to soda, fruit drinks and junk foods through school vending machines; and a lower income or education level.

"When children watch a lot of TV, they tend to snack more frequently, particularly on foods that are high in fat and/or sugar," said Ms. Palmer. "This not only increases their overall caloric intake, which we know can lead to obesity, but it also increases their risk of developing tooth decay because the amount of time food is in contact with the teeth increases."

Although the causes for obesity and cavities vary, she added, "many of the contributing factors are rooted in evolving changes in lifestyle and environment, including changes in physical activity and school food services."

Parents and caregivers can reduce a child's risk for both health conditions by asking the family dentist about good nutrition for general and oral health and tips for healthy snacking, a balanced diet and good dental care at home.

For more information on diet and oral health, log on to "". The Web site includes nutrition tips, frequently asked questions and more resources.

Please contact the ADA if you have questions about this article.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

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