Finding the balance


  Posted by: Dental Design      19th November 2022

Explaining the ways that diet can affect the teeth and gums is fairly straightforward to adult patients, but what about children and young adults?

In childhood, good oral health is a prerequisite for a life of long-lasting, good oral health, which is vital to communicate as effectively as possible to children and to their parent/guardian.

Rising trends

Researchers[i] found that the rise in childhood obesity has coincided with an increase in self-reported weight loss attempts. This is especially prevalent among boys, older children, Asian children and children from lower income households. It was not reported what weight loss practices were being implemented.

This may demonstrate that weight loss/obesity campaigns have been somewhat successful in communicating the importance of a healthy weight to young groups. Indeed, it has been shown that obesity prevalence among children has decreased; in reception-aged children, obesity prevalence dropped from 14.4% in 2020/21 to 10.4% in 2021/22, and in Year 6, the prevalence dropped from 25.5% to 23.5% within the same time bracket.[ii] However, these trends might not be as initially positive as they seem at first glance. This is because whatever weight control behaviours are being implemented by young people (or their parents/guardians), these could be potentially inappropriate and/or unsupervised, therefore putting the young patient at risk.

Obesity and a low weight are both potential risk factors for poor oral health, and seeing these factors in young patients is especially worrying, as it could encourage more severe oral complications further down the line.  


It is a well-known fact that obesity harms children and young people; it can lead to bullying, stigmatisation and therefore low self-esteem, as well as an increased risk of high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes.[iii]

Studies have shown that the prevalence of dental caries was high in overweight children, when compared to those of a healthy weight.[iv] If left untreated, caries may trigger pain, loss of sleep and poor nutrition, which can compromise growth and development.[v] Researchers have also highlighted a marked increase in the prevalence of eating disorders,i  which could be related to the marketing of obesity campaigns, media reporting and social media culture. This could lead to weight dissatisfaction among young patients and further issues with self-esteem, even in those who are not overweight.

Weight loss/dieting

The National Health Service (NHS) advises that children should be aiming to eat five or more portions of fruit and vegetables every day, as well as discouraging sugary and high-fat foods.[vi] While this advice seems straightforward, it is evident that it is not always followed, and young patients may take weight control measures into their own hands. This could partly be through influences online, as well as through misguided advice from family.

It was reported that between April and December 2021, nearly 10,000 children and young people started treatment for an eating disorder.[vii] Signs of an eating disorder in children (or anyone) might include, but is not limited to: calorie counting, restricted eating and repeatedly weighing themselves. It can also include vomiting or feeling guilty after eating, and abnormally low or high weight changes. Unsurprisingly, these habits can wreak havoc on oral health; malnutrition, which can result through a tightly-constrained diet, can affect the development of the mouth, teeth and gums, as well as trigger a reduced resistance to microbial biofilms and a reduced capacity to repair tissue.[viii] The ability to shield against plaque acids and infection is also affected.ix 

The role of a dental professional

Complications with weight require an interprofessional approach from multiple healthcare providers. However, dental professionals are in an opportune position to recognise signs of both over- and under-eating within the mouth, which may not have been apparent otherwise. These are certainly challenging issues to manage, but simply educating both the patient and their parent/guardian, in a non-judgemental manner, can help to equip them with advice and tips on how to best care for their oral health, as well as their overall wellbeing.

Young patients need guidance that’s easy to follow and implement, so starting with the basics is ideal. A high-quality toothpaste, used for two minutes twice-daily, is a fundamental part of caring for oral health, so consider suggesting a toothpaste that is trusted by the profession. The Arm & Hammer 100% Natural Whitening Protection toothpaste is ideal for everyday use, and helps to protect and repair the enamel for more resistant teeth. With the quality ingredient baking soda, this low abrasion solution promotes a neutral pH, contains 1450 ppm of fluoride (for caries prevention) and neutralises unpleasant odour. Plus, the toothpastes are vegan-friendly and the carton, tube and cap are all 100% recyclable!

Invaluable guidance for a healthy life

All patients deserve good oral health. Children, in particular, are in a prime position to set themselves up for a long life free from oral complications. All they need is a knowledgeable and friendly dental team to set them on the right track.


For more information about the carefully formulated Arm & Hammer toothpaste range, please visit or email:

  Arm & Hammer oral healthcare products can now be purchased from Boots, Amazon, Superdrug, ASDA, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Morrison’s, Waitrose & Partners and Ocado.


Anne Symons

Anne Symons is  a Dental Hygienist currently working in a Specialist  Periodontal/implant practice and also a busy NHS surgery. She has previously worked in a Max Fax unit, and also taught Oral Health care to staff in Nursing and Residential homes. Anne is also a Professional Educator for Waterpik.


[i] Ahmad, A., Little, M., Piernas, C. and Jebb, S. (2022). Trends in weight loss attempts among children in England. Archives of Disease in Childhood. [online] Available at: [Accessed 27 Jul. 2022].


[ii] NHS Digital. (2022). National Child Measurement Programme, England, Provisional 2021/22 School Year Outputs. [online] Available at: [Accessed 27 Jul. 2022].


[iii] Public Health England (2020). Childhood obesity: applying All Our Health. [online] GOV.UK. Available at:[Accessed 27 Jul. 2022].


[iv] Gunjalli, G., Kumar, K.N., Jain, S.K., Reddy, S.K., Shavi, G.R. and Ajagannanavar, S.L. (2014). Total Salivary Anti-oxidant Levels, Dental Development and Oral Health Status in Childhood Obesity. Journal of international oral health : JIOH, [online] 6(4), pp.63–7. Available at: [Accessed 27 Jul. 2022].


[v] Arora, A., Rana, K., Manohar, N., Li, L., Bhole, S. and Chimoriya, R. (2022). Perceptions and Practices of Oral Health Care Professionals in Preventing and Managing Childhood Obesity. Nutrients, [online] 14(9), p.1809. Available at: [Accessed 27 Jul. 2022].


[vi] (2021). Advice for parents of healthy-weight children. [online] Available at: [Accessed 27 Jul. 2022].


[vii] NHS (2022b). NHS treating record number of young people for eating disorders. NHS England. [online] 7 Mar. Available at: [Accessed 27 Jul. 2022].


[viii] Sheetal, A. (2013). Malnutrition and its Oral Outcome – A Review. JOURNAL OF CLINICAL AND DIAGNOSTIC RESEARCH. [online] Available at: [Accessed 27 Jul. 2022].


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