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Far too many people eat way too much fast food. How does a junk-food diet impact your oral health?

The fast food culture become an unstoppable force in most developed nations. In fact, it is surprising and shocking that the rate of serious dental problems is rising right alongside education levels and disposable incomes rise in countries with economic growth. The reason for this seemingly counter-intuitive trend has been the spread of fast food eating habits.

Fast food — and the soft drinks that almost always accompany it — are loaded with sugar. This addition of sugar is an extremely important modifying factor for the development of disease: sugar is the perfect food for the growth and development of pathogenic micro-organisms. A drop in salivary acidic levels to allow tooth destruction to take place, and sugar's sticky nature has a prolonged effect on the teeth.

Scientists have studied the effect this change in our diet has had on our likelihood of developing dental diseases. Here are some of the most important results.

Caries/Tooth decay

The most common form of added sugar the diets of average Americans is through soft drinks, one study found. It has also been proven without doubt that an increased amount of sugar directly translates to an increased amount of tooth decay. This is what led researchers to investigate whether increased consumption of soft drinks made people more likely to get tooth decay. The National Health and Nutrition Examination study showed that people who drank three or more soft drinks daily had a 17 to 62 percent greater chance of developing tooth decay than those who did not have any soft drinks.

The same co-relation between soft drink consumption and tooth decay was found in a study conducted on British school children, where even one soft drink on average per week raised the chances of developing tooth decay by three percent.

Fast food is also not as rough and thus naturally cleansing to the teeth. Our teeth were designed to tear and chew on food that was uncooked. The jaws have evolved to smaller shapes in response to the reduced amount of force required for chewing since the advent of cooking. The surface of the teeth, while being extremely hard, is not equipped to handle sweet and soft food all the time. Go against nature by consuming large amounts of sugar, and the quality of plaque in the mouth  will change to make it more destructive in nature.

It is fascinating to think that one of the main reasons why tooth disease is rampant all over the world is because humans are simply not working their teeth hard enough anymore!

Periodontal Disease

This condition — which affects the supporting structures of the teeth including the gums, the bone and the root covering (cementum) — is also affected directly by your diet. The changed plaque characteristics a fast food diet create have been found to cause an increased amount of gingival bleeding, packet formation, recession, and eventual tooth loss.

While poor oral hygiene is the main cause for the occurrence of periodontal disease, there is no doubt that a fast food diet reduces the margin of error significantly.

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