The effect of obesity on tooth development in children and adolescents
AlSulaiman, Abdulrahman Tarik
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The incidence of obesity has risen significantly over the past decades, reaching epidemic levels in many countries around the world. More alarming is the increasing number of overweight and obese children. Obesity is associated with an increased risk for physical and psychological health problems. While the impact of obesity is well documented, less is known about its effect on tooth development. Several studies have found evidence supporting a correlation between the incidence of dental caries and obesity. However, the correlation between obesity and tooth development is unclear because of the scarce information and few studies on the topic. To address this issue, a systemic review of the correlation between obesity and tooth development in children and adolescents has been conducted. High fat content affects growth and hormonal metabolism that indicates that obese children have accelerated linear growth. Therefore, the hormonal changes produced as a result of obesity may also modify tooth eruption in children and adolescents. Various studies have shown that most obese children consume copious amounts of snacks—particularly high-calorie snacks that contain high amounts of sugar. As a result, these children surpass the ideal weight for their age. Furthermore, obesity results from the imbalance between energy expenditure and calorie intake, which in turn leads to an abnormal buildup of fat in the body. Few studies have explored whether childhood obesity affects tooth development. One study found that obese children tend to have more erupted teeth than non-obese children, and their teeth tend to erupt earlier than those of non-obese children as well, after adjusting for weight, gender, age, and race. In particular, obese children have about four more erupted teeth compared to thin children. Tooth eruption is a development stage that influences body weight. Therefore, interfering with the timing of the tooth eruption consequently impairs the emerging teeth and further prolongs the treatment of teeth. Moreover, if tooth eruption is left undiagnosed and untreated, those individuals are more vulnerable to other dental problems, such as crowding, poor oral hygiene, and malocclusion. Delayed treatment may also result in the need for additional treatment as the child grows. Research shows that obese children tend to mature faster and develop permanent teeth earlier than children with a normal body mass index. One study posited that dental development progresses with rises in body mass index. This explains why dental development is relatively higher among obese adolescents, compared to normal-weight adolescents of the same age. It also suggests that obese adolescents are predisposed to dental health problems such as malocclusion.