Fast food – a convenience or a complication?


  Posted by: Dental Design      17th April 2023

After a busy day at work, or after a night out, the UK’s favourite pastime is to order a takeaway. And it’s easy to see why fast food has become such a staple to modern lives – it’s quick, easy and filling. Nowadays, however, we understand that the overconsumption of fast food presents plenty of risks to our health. As a dental professional, the consumption of fast foods in patients, especially those already at risk of oral health issues, is especially worrying. The dental team must work together to ensure that patients are adequately supported with relevant dental health information, so they can make the right choices regarding their health.

What do the statistics tell us?

Takeaways are often seen as a ‘treat’, but more often than not many individuals rely upon fast food and takeaways for an easy alternative to cooking. Trends in the nation’s health suggest that there are serious issues regarding the overconsumption of fast food.

As of 2022, it’s thought that the UK has around 46,248 takeaway and fast food businesses.[i] Understandably, the pandemic affected consumer behaviour around fast foods, with the average spend per person per year rising by almost a half, from £452 to £641, in 2019 and 2021 respectively.[ii] Now more than ever, fast food is readily available almost everywhere; food delivery companies have also made consuming fast foods just that much easier. In the Food Foundation’s ‘Broken Plate 2022’ report,[iii] around 32% of advertising for food and soft drinks contributes towards ‘less healthy’ options, in comparison to around 1% for fruit and vegetables. The report also highlighted that the number of children who are starting their first year of school with obesity has risen by almost 50% in one year.iii  In addition, research has associated certain life events, such as starting full-time employment or becoming a parent, with an increase in fast food consumption.[iv]

Statistics estimate that consuming takeaway meals or meals out of the house contributes to a higher consumption of calories:[v] research further suggests that environmental exposure to takeaway food outlets at home, work and during commuting could contribute to a greater body mass index (BMI) and greater odds of obesity.[vi] Unsurprisingly, takeaway/fast foods have a poor nutritional profile.[vii] In light of this, it’s not difficult to see how the overconsumption of fast foods can seriously impact our health.

Eat what’s right

As you well know, many fast food items are high in fats, sugars, salts and processed preservatives, which can wreak havoc on the tooth’s enamel and on the sensitive gingival tissues.[viii] Poor nutrition can majorly impact oral health, too, with links to caries and periodontal and oral mucosa diseases. [ix] The common ramifications of consuming fast foods can affect the oral cavity, too. Obesity is an accepted risk factor for the overconsumption of fast foods,[x] with the literature showing that overweight/obese children may be more vulnerable to caries,[xi] while another study found that young women with a higher BMI had poor oral health and a greater prevalence of caries.[xii] Other related comorbidities can include insulin resistance, the risk of which is thought to increase when fast food is consumed 2 or more times a week.[xiii]

It can be challenging to have these conversations with your patients. Many may feel judged, shocked, or even indignant. Dental professionals often talk to patients about delicate topics, so it’s likely that you’ve been in this position before. And while you cannot influence what patients consume, you can help them to see the importance of making better decisions regarding their health. Relevant oral health guidance, for example, can help to ensure that the risks of oral diseases are kept to a minimum. When patients can better understand why you’re advising what you are, they can better appreciate the significance of a more balanced, varied diet.

Protecting the oral cavity

When educating patients, you can also suggest dental products that help them to maintain general oral health. For instance, the Waterpik® Water Flosser is proven to remove up to 99.9% of plaque from treated areas, and is up to 50% more effective for improving gum health vs string floss.[xiv] [xv] It’s also easy to use and needed for only a minute a day to provide a deep clean, removing debris from between the teeth and below the gumline. As the world’s number 1 water flosser brand, you can recommend Waterpik® with confidence.

Our diet plays a monumental role in our health, especially in our oral health. Tackling the overconsumption of fast food is not something the dental sector can do alone, but with the right oral health advice, patients can better protect their teeth from the commonly-associated complications relating to a poor diet.

For more information on Waterpik® Water Flosser products visit Waterpik® products are available from Amazon, Costco UK, Argos, Boots, Superdrug and Tesco online and in stores across the UK and Ireland.

Join the 3,000+ dental teams who have already benefitted from a professional Waterpik® Lunch & Learn. Book your free session for 1 hour of verifiable CPD and a free Waterpik®Water Flosser – available either face to face or as a webinar – at 

Alison Reid RDH GDC 5615 
Qualified from Dundee dental hospital with dip dental hygiene 1999
Qualified dental nurse NEBN 
Scotvec Assessor for dental nurses 
Professional educator for WaterPik

During my career I have worked in varying sectors of dentistry from NHS, community care/hospital,  private and corporate.  My career has allowed me to travel from my home area of Inverness in the Scottish Highlands to London. My strong passion for dentistry is to help support not only my patient’s journeys but also colleagues including trainees newly qualified and qualified a like. My aim is to encouraged and support others by my own development, passing on skills and knowledge.

[i] (n.d.). IBISWorld – Industry Market Research, Reports, and Statistics. [online] Available at: [Accessed 21 Nov. 2022].

[ii] KPMG (2021). Pandemic drives households to increase spend on takeaways by almost a half – KPMG United Kingdom. [online] KPMG. Available at: [Accessed 21 Nov. 2022].

[iii] (n.d.). The Broken Plate 2022 | Food Foundation. [online] Available at: [Accessed 21 Nov. 2022].

[iv] Winpenny, E.M., Winkler, M.R., Stochl, J., van Sluijs, E.M.F., Larson, N. and Neumark-Sztainer, D. (2020). Associations of early adulthood life transitions with changes in fast food intake: a latent trajectory analysis. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, [online] 17(1). Available at:[Accessed 22 Nov. 2022].

[v] Goffe, L., Rushton, S., White, M., Adamson, A. and Adams, J. (2017). Relationship between mean daily energy intake and frequency of consumption of out-of-home meals in the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, [online] 14(1). Available at:[Accessed 22 Nov. 2022].

[vi] Burgoine, T., Forouhi, N.G., Griffin, S.J., Wareham, N.J. and Monsivais, P. (2014). Associations between exposure to takeaway food outlets, takeaway food consumption, and body weight in Cambridgeshire, UK: population based, cross sectional study. BMJ, [online] 348(mar13 5), pp.g1464–g1464. Available at: [Accessed 22 Nov. 2022].

[vii] Jaworowska, A., M. Blackham, T., Long, R., Taylor, C., Ashton, M., Stevenson, L. and Glynn Davies, I. (2014). Nutritional composition of takeaway food in the UK. Nutrition & Food Science, 44(5), pp.414–430. doi:10.1108/nfs-08-2013-0093.

[viii] Jauhiainen, L.M., Ylöstalo, P.V., Knuuttila, M., Männistö, S., Kanerva, N. and Suominen, A.L. (2019). Poor diet predicts periodontal disease development in 11‐year follow‐up study. Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology, [online] 48(2), pp.143–151. Available at: [Accessed 22 Nov. 2022].

[ix] Gondivkar, S.M., Gadbail, A.R., Gondivkar, R.S., Sarode, S.C., Sarode, G.S., Patil, S. and Awan, K.H. (2019). Nutrition and oral health. Disease-a-Month, [online] 65(6), pp.147–154. Available at: [Accessed 22 Nov. 2022].

[x] Albalawi, A., Hambly, C. and Speakman, J. (2020). Associations of Food Outlet Densities with Obesity Measures Identify Fish and Chip Shops as a Uniquely Important Problem. Nutrients, [online] 12(4), p.890. Available at: [Accessed 21 Nov. 2022].

[xi] Manohar, N., Hayen, A., Fahey, P. and Arora, A. (2019). Obesity and dental caries in early childhood: A systematic review and meta‐analyses. Obesity Reviews. [online] Available at: [Accessed 21 Nov. 2022].

[xii] Taghat, N., Lingström, P., Mossberg, K., Fändriks, L., Eliasson, B. and Östberg, A.-L. (2022). Oral health by obesity classification in young obese women – a cross-sectional study. Acta Odontologica Scandinavica, [online] 80(8), pp.596–604. Available at: [Accessed 21 Nov. 2022].

[xiii] Nasirullah, M. (2020). Fast Food Addiction: A Major Public Health Issue. Nutrition and Food Processing, 3(1), pp.01–09. doi:10.31579/2637-8914/017.

[xiv] Gorur A, Lyle DM, Schaudinn C, Costerton JW. Compend Contin Ed Dent 2009; 30 (Suppl 1):1 – 6.

[xv] Rosema NAM et al. The effect of different interdental cleaning devices on gingival bleeding. J Int Acad Periodontol 2011; 13(1):2-10.


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