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Consumer News — Night eating, tooth loss link

People who tend to eat a quarter or more of their daily calories after dinner by grabbing a midnight snack several times a week could not only be expanding their waistlines, but also damaging their dental health, according to Danish researchers.

A study of the records of more than 2,200 adults, ages 30 to 60, who participated in a Danish medical study, were assessed at two points during six years (1987-88 and 1993-94). Only 8 percent of participants, 173 in all, were diagnosed as nocturnal eaters—individuals who consumed at least one fourth of their calories each day after the evening meal and reported waking in the middle of the night to have a snack at least twice a week.

By tracking participants' records, researchers found that nocturnal eaters lost more teeth over the six-year period, even when factoring in participants' ages, diabetic status smoking status, body mass index and consumption of sugars and carbohydrates. People who were not night eaters, non-diabetics and non-smokers had significantly fewer lost teeth.

Researchers theorized that, since people produce less saliva at night, people who nosh at night might not have enough saliva to remove food debris from the mouth. They recommend that dentists and patients discuss nighttime eating behaviors and that patients brush every night after eating to help preserve their teeth.

ADA.org (http://www.ada.org/2984.aspx?currentTab=1) offers a comprehensive guide to diet and dental health, including information on how foods cause tooth decay, how to choose food wisely and tips for better dental health. The website also offers information on cleaning teeth and gums (http://www.ada.org/3072.aspx?currentTab=1), including tips on proper brushing and flossing.

Talk to your dentist about oral health care strategies if you think you have an eating behavior that affects your oral health. A patient information page, "Eating habits that can harm teeth," is also available at http://www.ada.org/sections/scienceAndResearch/pdfs/patient_21.pdf.

©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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