Could Going to the Dentist Reduce Risk of Obesity?

According to new research from Yale University, the more dentists in a place, the lower the rate of obesity. Researchers found that for every additional dentist per 10,000 people in a county, there was a 1% drop in adult obesity rates. But can dentists really lower obesity rates?

Correlation Is Not Causation

Although this report is intriguing, we first have to make it clear that correlation does not equal causation. That is, just because two things are correlated, it doesn’t mean that one is causing the other. Often two things correlated have no actual relationship. See here for some crazy examples of spurious correlations.

dreamstime_s_29651946This is true no matter how rigorous the correlation. In this study, researchers used rigorous methods to ensure that their correlation was accurate. In this case, researchers corrected for many things that have previously been associated with obesity rates, including:

  • Education level
  • Income level
  • Recreational facilities
  • Fast-food restaurants
  • Neighbor effect of adjacent counties

However, this is still just a correlation. In order to establish a causal mechanism that would potentially connect dentists with lower obesity rates. Does such a mechanism exist?

How Dentists Could Reduce Obesity

Turns out, there’s not one, but at least two different mechanisms by which dentists could reduce obesity. First, by preventing and treating gum disease, dentists could be reducing the overall burden of inflammatory disease on the population. Inflammatory disease is an important part of the cycle of obesity, and by blunting the cycle dentists could reduce the positive feedback loop that can cause weight gain to spiral out of control.

Another way dentists could reduce obesity is more straightforward. People who go to the dentist regularly are more likely to be counseled about dietary sugar. Sugar intake is a major contributor to obesity, and people who cut it out of their diet are not only protecting their teeth, their controlling their weight.

Although the Yale study is just a simple correlation, it seems likely that dentists could, in fact, reduce obesity rates.

If you are looking for a Beverly Hills dentist, please call 310-275-5325 for an appointment at Ravon Knopf.

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