The Oral Health Connection to Extreme Weight Loss

A woman on extreme diet, eating only a small piece of lettuce

• Extreme weight loss can negatively affect oral health, including malnutrition, dehydration, vitamin deficiencies, and dry mouth. 

• Focus on a healthy lifestyle and proper oral hygiene instead of extreme measures to lose weight. 

• Extreme measures to lose weight should be avoided, and discuss health conditions with a doctor before starting a weight loss plan. 

• A healthcare team can develop an individualized plan that fits the needs of each person. 

Being overweight or obese is a major health concern. But, for many people, the desire to lose weight can lead them down a dangerous path of extreme measures that can have far-reaching consequences, including oral health. While it’s important to maintain a healthy lifestyle, some serious risks are associated with extreme weight loss. Here’s a closer look at the connection between extreme weight loss and oral health.

The Risks of Extreme Weight Loss

Extreme weight loss is losing more than 1% of total body mass per week. This could include dieting and exercise routines that severely limit the amount of food you eat and drastically increase daily physical activity levels. This behavior can lead to malnutrition, dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and vitamin deficiencies—all of which can significantly impact your oral health.


Malnutrition has been linked to an increased risk for dental caries (cavities) due to a lack of calcium, phosphorus, and other minerals necessary for healthy teeth and bones. It can also cause gum disease because the saliva produced during malnutrition often lacks proteins essential for maintaining healthy gums. Additionally, not eating enough protein-rich foods can weaken your immune system, making it harder for your body to fight off bacterial and other infections that cause periodontal disease.


Dehydration caused by extreme weight loss increases the risk for dry mouth (xerostomia), which can further increase your chances for tooth decay because saliva helps wash away bacteria that cause plaque buildup on the teeth. It can also cause a burning sensation in the mouth, gum irritation, and bad breath.

Vitamin Deficiencies

Vitamin deficiencies related to extreme weight loss can also cause dry mouth since Vitamin B2 is needed to produce saliva. At the same time, Vitamin A helps protect against bacterial infections in the mouth, like gingivitis (gum inflammation). Furthermore, low iron or zinc levels have been linked with an increased risk for periodontal disease (gum disease) due to a weakened immune system response from these deficiencies.

Taking Care of Your Oral Health While Trying to Lose Weight

Taking extreme measures to lose weight can be dangerous and lead to more health issues. Instead, focusing on a healthy lifestyle that includes regular physical activity, a balanced diet, and proper oral hygiene is important.

Regular Physical Activity

Regular physical activity can help with weight loss when done in moderation. It’s important to monitor your heart rate and other vital signs while exercising and take breaks or snacks if you feel dizzy, nauseous, or faint. It’s also essential to check with your dentist before beginning any new exercise program. Some types of physical activity require using a mouth guard or other oral health care products to protect your teeth and gums.

Balanced Diet

A balanced diet is essential for maintaining good overall health, including oral health. Make sure you get at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily and lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats. Avoid processed foods, beverages high in sugar, and other items that can cause tooth decay.

A photo of an extracted tooth clamped

Proper Oral Hygiene

Maintaining good oral hygiene is key to preventing dental cavities, gum disease, and other health problems. Brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes, using fluoridated toothpaste, and floss at least once daily. It’s also important to visit a dental office for regular checkups, cleanings, and any treatments you may need.

A Safer Way to Lose Weight

Instead of doing an extreme weight loss plan, try focusing on making small changes in your lifestyle to help you lose weight safely. For example, start by cutting back on sugary snacks and drinks, increase the amount of physical activity you do each day, and make healthier food choices.

If you have any health conditions, discussing any weight loss plans with your doctor is especially important. If you have, for example, diabetes or acid reflux, you may need to follow a special diet and lifestyle plan. Your dentist can also be an important resource in helping you achieve your weight loss goals while maintaining good oral health. Working together, you and your healthcare team can develop an individualized plan that fits your needs and helps ensure that any weight loss plans don’t harm your oral health.

A dietitian writing on a paper on a clipboard

Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is important, but taking the safe route when losing weight is just as important. Extreme measures can put you at risk for serious health issues, including oral health concerns like cavities, gum disease, and dry mouth. By following a balanced diet, engaging in regular physical activity, and properly caring for your teeth and gums, you can reach your weight loss goals while keeping your smile healthy.

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