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Dentists, Dietitians, and Oral Health

March 25, 2011

As I plan to make my way to the dentist office later next week I’ve begun to think of a terrific article I read recently in the winter issue of the ADA Times, a publication for members of the American Dietetic Association.

The article by Amberly Wilson, MS, RD, titled “A Perfect Match: Opportunities for Dentist-Dietitian Connections” brings to light the relationship between nutrition and dentistry. Whether its dental caries, eating disorders, or complications with diabetes often the first signs of poor nutrition develop in the mouth. Because of this, there are definite opportunities for RDs and dentists to collaborate to improve the health of patients.


When you think of oral health and nutrition the first connection you may make is dental caries (cavities) and the foods that cause them. Foods like soda, candy, and bread products are the biggest culprits. Bacteria that aids in tooth decay use the carbohydrates provided by these foods for energy and produce byproducts that further breakdown enamel and teeth.

But there is a much larger spectrum of oral diseases that relate to nutrition. Eating disorders, like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa can often be discovered through oral examination as well. Translucent, brittle and weakened teeth as well as loss of tissue or erosive lesions can all be signs that an eating disorder may be present. And because so many eating disorders go unreported dentists can often be the first health professional that screen for these health problems.

Diabetes is another disease that exhibits problems inside the mouth. Because of poor blood glucose control gum disease can be a common threat to diabetics due to the body’s lessened ability to fight of bacteria. What’s worse is that problems like gum disease that are commonly caused by bacterial infections also lead to a spike in blood glucose, making diabetes harder to control. Other complications include thrush and dry mouth that can further lead to cavities or ulcers.

Even such issues as vitamin and mineral deficiencies can cause serious oral problems. Vitamin C deficiency can lead to bleeding gums. B vitamin deficiency can lead to a problem known as angular cheilosis, characterized by fissures in the corners of the mouth, lips, and cheeks. A swollen, pale or reddened tongue in which there is a absence or flattened papillae (the little structures on your tongue) can also be due to folate, B vitamin or iron deficits.


Oral health and nutrition have a clear connection. It’s up to both dietitians and dentists to work together for better patient care and ultimately, healthier individuals. The next time you have a oral check-up, think about how you can incorporate both professions into your life for better overall health.


  1. “Living With Diabetes.” American Diabetic Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Mar. 2011. < >.
  2. Wilson, Amberly. “A Perfect Match: Opportunities for Dentist-Dietitian Connections.” ADA Times Winter 2011: 18-19. Print.
2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 15, 2011 5:10 AM

    What’s worse is that problems like gum disease that are commonly caused by bacterial infections also lead to a spike in blood glucose, making diabetes harder to control.

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