Poor nutrition can negatively affect your teeth and gums. And then, once you start experiencing oral health issues, this may in turn reduce your ability to chew and eat – leading to further malnutrition.
That may sound a little topsy-turvy, but that’s how it is with nutrition and oral health. They have an interdependent relationship – with one affecting the other.
Your mouth is the gateway for micronutrients to enter the body
The mouth is essentially the gateway for essential micronutrients (vitamins/minerals) to enter the body via a meal.
You need to chew and masticate your meal effectively, in order to prepare these essential micronutrients for proper digestion and absorption into your body. Once absorbed, these nutrients go on to help maintain and protect the health of your teeth and gums so they continue to function normally.
Good oral health is strongly linked to good nutrition. However, if you’re malnourished and experiencing oral health issues at the same time, then you may experience a cascade of multiple health complications.
Does malnutrition occur in Australia?
With over 65% of Australian adults experiencing obesity in 2019, you would expect that most Australians are getting enough calories. The problem is, those calories may be empty ones and if so, there are probably a lot of Australians out there experiencing a form of malnutrition known as “hidden hunger” as opposed to regular hunger.
If you experience “hidden hunger”, you may be getting enough calories from a diet high in protein and refined carbs (or junk food), but you may not be getting enough vitamin and mineral micronutrients. Without micronutrients, our bodies cannot function, repair, regenerate nor fight disease properly.
The effects of micronutrient deficiency on oral health
The following table lists vitamin and minerals micronutrients as well as the oral health issues associated with the deficiency (for children and/or adults):
- Protein/calorie malnutrition – slower and smaller tooth development, salival issues
- Vitamin A – oral soft tissue development, reduced tooth formation, deficient enamel formation
- Vitamin D,K1/Calcium – lower calcium levels, reduced teeth mineralisation, delayed tooth eruption, poor jaw development
- Vitamin C – poor dentin (inner tooth) development, low collagen, slower wound healing, bleeding gums
- Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) – cracked lips, cracking and inflammation in corners of the mouth
- Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)/Vitamin B3 (Niacin) – tongue inflammation, cracking and inflammation in corners of the mouth, gum infections
- Vitamin B6 – Gum disease (periodontitis), anemic tongue, oral soreness and irritation
- Vitamin B12 – cracking and inflammation in corners of the mouth, bad breath (halitosis), mouth ulcers, detachment of connective tissues supporting teeth
- Iron – salival issues, swollen inflamed tongue, swallowing problems
Sheetal, A., Hiremath, V. K., Patil, A. G., Sajjansetty, S., & Kumar, S. R. (2013). Malnutrition and its oral outcome – a review. Journal of clinical and diagnostic research : JCDR, 7(1), 178–180. https://doi.org/10.7860/JCDR/2012/5104.2702