Obesity in children is a growing problem, according to the American Heart Association. Obesity is associated with several health-related conditions and ailments, including diabetes and heart disease. A child is considered obese when his weight is 10 percent or more above the recommended weight for his height and body type. Based on recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), obesity in children aged 6 to 11 years old increased from 7 to 18 percent between 1980 and 2010. Over the same period, obesity rose from 5 to 18 percent for adolescents aged 12 to 19 years old. The CDC has also reported that, as the prevalence of obesity increased among children and adolescents, incidents of tooth decay also rose, which suggests a link between dental health and weight. Recent trends in research confirm this relationship.
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), diabetes and heart disease have been increasingly identified as potential precursors to periodontal disease, which is an infection in the gums and the jawbone. Medications for high blood pressure, often taken by people who struggle with obesity, can also have adverse effects on the oral cavity due to their side effects. The most common side effects of these medications are dry mouth and overgrowth of the gums, which can cause plaque to get trapped beneath. Both side effects can lead to periodontal disease and cavities. It is important to note the connection between diets that are high in carbohydrates and nutritionally deficient and oral health. Foods that expose the teeth to an excessive amount of sugar and acid increase the risk of tooth decay and enamel erosion.
The first step toward managing your child's obesity is to see a health care professional, who can determine whether a child is actually obese and not afflicted by a medical condition. Parents should not restrict caloric intake based on the child's appearance. An over-restricted diet may prevent normal growth and development. The following are recommendations by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry for managing obesity in children and adolescents.