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Nutrition and health.

The May-June issue of Access is dedicated to the topic of nutrition and the relationship to oral health. This is an appropriate and timely theme coming on the heels of the launch of the First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move initiative at the beginning of 2010, which encourages families across the nation to commit to living healthier lives. The primary focus of this national campaign is on childhood obesity and its associated health risks, The campaign advocates healthy choices in nutrition, accessible and affordable healthy foods, healthier schools and the inclusion of family exercise. The initiative is expected to incorporate many levels of government, industry and the private sector, as well as a new foundation, the Partnership for a Healthier America. The American Dietetic Association supports this new venture and envisions that it will catalyze the combined efforts of families, schools, government, communities and health care professionals to address the nation's health crisis of obesity. I encourage all dental hygienists to join in the support of the initiative and visit the Web site at


The competencies of dental hygiene education focus on disease prevention and oral health promotion. As health educators, patient advocates and change agents, dental hygienists play a significant role in behavior modification by encouraging patients to implement healthy lifestyles relative to nutrition, exercise and oral health. (1) Oral health, nutritional status and systemic diseases are interrelated, Oral infectious diseases, as well as acute, chronic and terminal systemic diseases with oral manifestations, impact dietary intake and nutrition status. Similarly, nutrition status and diet may affect the development and integrity of the oral cavity as well as the progression of oral diseases. Inclusion of both didactic and clinical practice constructs that exemplify the role of nutrition in oral health is essential in dental hygiene, dental and dietetic education programs. Multifaceted collaborative endeavors between the professions of dietetics and dentistry related to diet, nutrition and oral health in clinical practice, education and research are warranted to ensure comprehensive health care. Dental hygienists have been underutilized in interdisciplinary collaboration. Dental hygienists need to examine their role in interdisciplinary treatment and any perceived barriers to effective collaboration. (2)

Nutrition is vital to human growth, development, life maintenance and oral health. Therefore, it is imperative for the dental hygienist to keep abreast of nutrition trends and resource information in educating patients on proper nutrition relative to oral and general health. Health and nutrition education within the scope of dental hygiene practice is not limited to caries prevention, periodontal health and smoking cessation. Dental hygienists are in a unique position to expand their knowledge base in the multiplistic approach to health promotion and disease prevention as part of the delivery of care to the general public. We have the expertise to make a difference in the everyday lives of our patients. I think this issue will be a unique addition to the ever-expanding library of the dedicated oral health professional.

Feature Articles

Access' cover feature written by Heidi Emmerling, RDH, PhD, is on the topic of food intolerance and allergies. The author provides the dental hygienist with an insight into the etiology, reactions, symptoms and diet modifications relative to food allergy and intolerances.

The clinical feature by Mary D. Cooper, RDH, MSEd, investigates the disorder of pica. Pica is a medical disorder characterized by an appetite for non-nutritive substances such as metal, clay, coal, soil, feces, chalk, paper and soap. It is also described as an abnormal appetite for some things that may be considered foods, such as flour, raw potato and rice, starch, ice cubes and salt. Research suggests that the disorder is caused by mineral deficiencies, typically iron deficiency; often, the substance eaten by someone with pica contains the mineral in which that individual is deficient. (3) I personally have witnessed a close family member with severe iron-deficiency anemia incessantly chewing Ice cubes: what initially appeared as just an oral habit was confirmed by a hemoglobin lab result to be pica.

The clinical feature, "Phytochemicals: The Colors of the New Millennium," written by Nancy K. Mann, RDH, MSEd, outlines phytochemicals. These are the chemicals found in fruits, vegetables and plants that give them color, taste and smell. They also serve as protective, disease-fighting compounds with antioxidant and anticancer properties. Some common phytochemicals are lycopene, found in tomatoes and peppers, carotenoids, found in carrots and oranges, and isoflavones, which are found in soy.

May-June Columns

The student column, "Strive," written by Amanda Hogan, BS, is an investigation of the effect of Splenda and xylitol on S. mutans. The author analyzed whether xylitol and Splenda are able to act either additively or synergistically to inhibit S. mutans.

The "Strive Special" by Jen dinger, BA, RDH, focuses on the student's personal experience reducing the sugar content in her diet for approximately one month. What began as an attempt to lose the "freshman 15" escalated into a value-added benefit of patient empathy, or as she states, "diabetic sensitivity training."

The article I have written for this month's "Nutrition" column is an informational piece on acai (pronounced ah-SIGH-ee). As indicated by the title, "FYI on Acai: Fact or Fiction?" it highlights the facts and fiction about the "in vogue" purple berry. My hope is that as a patient advocate, the dental hygienist will find the article enlightening and will provide a foundation in directing patient inquiry toward sound evidence-based nutrition information in deciphering nutrition scams.


(1.) Ohrn K. The role of dental hygienists in oral health prevention. Oral Health Prev Dent. 2004; 2 Suppl 1:277-81.

(2.) Touger-Decker R, Mobley CC, American Dietetic Association. J Am Diet Assoc. 2007 Aug; 107(8): 1418-28. Position of the American Dietetic Association: oral health and nutrition.

(3.) Herguner S, Ozyildirim I, Tanidir C. Is pica an eating disorder or an obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorder?" Progress Neuro-Psychopharmacol Biol Psych 2008; 32 (8): 2010-11.

Luisa Nappo-Dattoma, RDH, RD, EdD, is a full-time assistant professor at Farmingdale State College in Farmingdale, N.Y.

By Luisa Nappo-Dattoma, RDH, RD, EdD
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Title Annotation:guest editorial
Author:Nappo-Dattoma, Luisa
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2010
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Next Article:The effect of Splenda and xylitol on the growth of Streptococcus mutans.

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