Yale researchers recently published data showing that the more dentists in a county, the lower the obesity rate. Their figures show a 1% drop in adult obesity rates for every additional dentist per 10,000 people in a county. But how can the mere presence of dentists lead to reduced obesity?
Correlation Is Not Causation
The first thing to address before we get excited about this finding is that this study only shows a correlation, which is not the same thing as causation. In other words, just because two things seem to happen in the same time or place doesn’t mean there’s any kind of significant relationship between them. There are many correlations between things that have no relationship to one another whatsoever. Here’s a website that compiles crazy examples of spurious correlations.
And just because a correlation is rigorous, it doesn’t necessarily make it any more valid. To attempt to show that their correlation was rigorous, researchers in this study introduced corrections for many factors that are correlated with obesity, including:
- Education level
- Income level
- Recreational facilities
- Fast-food restaurants
- Neighbor effect of adjacent counties
Although the correlation survived all those corrections, it’s still just a correlation. We can’t really talk about one thing causing another until we have a good mechanism that could link them. What could be the link between dentists and obesity?
How Dentists Could Reduce Obesity
There are many potential links between dentists and obesity, but we’ll just focus on two. One possibility relates to the way dentists help control gum disease, which is an inflammatory disease. By helping control inflammatory disease, they could reduce the impact of inflammatory disease on their patients, which could then in turn reduce obesity.
There’s a more straightforward way dentists could reduce obesity, too. People who go to the dentist more often are more likely to be told to avoid dietary sugar, especially soda, which is acidic and damages teeth, but also contains a very high number of calories. These people might eat less sugar, and, as a result, may be less obese.
So, it seems that there are a number of potential mechanisms, which makes it seem more plausible that dentists can help control obesity.
If you are looking for a dentist in Centennial or other areas of the southeast Denver Metro Area, please call 303-759-5652 for an appointment at Park Meadows Dental Care.