Diet and Oral health
Eating right is especially important for older people. That’s because poor nutrition can contribute to a decline in health. People in poor health are less likely to eat well. So are people with mouth or teeth problems. A vicious circle can result. This can have serious health consequences. Older people who live in nursing homes may be at a particular risk of developing vitamin deficiencies. They also may have more oral health problems.
People who wear dentures may not be able to chew well. They may lean toward soft diets. These diets often contain a lot of carbohydrates and not much nutrition.
Oral Concerns of Older Adults
Many older adults have mouth or teeth problems that make them less likely to consume a healthy diet.
Physical factors include:
- Changes in chewing ability
- Dry mouth (usually a side effect of medicine)
- Changes in taste and smell
- Slowing of metabolism and activity level
- Reduction in nutrient absorption (sometimes caused by medicine)
- Changes in eyesight and hearing
- Physical disabilities
- Untreated tooth decay
- Loose teeth
- Missing teeth that haven’t been replaced with bridges, dentures or implants
- Ill-fitting bridges or dentures
Regular dental care can improve or prevent many of these problems. However, many older people do not visit a dentist regularly.
Other Reasons for a Poor Diet
Many seniors lead a healthy, active life. Others may be isolated or lack the resources to live well. These problems can lead to a poor diet, which can cause physical problems. Factors that increase the risk of a poor diet include:
- Isolation and loneliness
- Low income
- Changes in living arrangements
- Alcohol abuse
- Drug/nutrient interactions
- Improper use of nutritional supplements
Eating a Healthy Diet
Here are some suggestions to help you eat an adequate diet even if you are having health problems.
If you have problems chewing, you can:
- Chop, grind or puree meats.
- Use canned, sugar-free fruits and vegetables.
- Cook fresh vegetables to make them softer.
- Eat softer breads and pasta.
If you have dry mouth, you can:
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Suck on sugarless candies.
- Talk to your dentist or doctor about saliva supplements.
- Ask your doctor if you can use another medicine that may not cause dry mouth.
If you have a diminished or altered sense of taste, you can:
- Add spices to your food.
- Try flavored dairy products (such as yogurt).
- Eat whole-grain breads and raw vegetables (they have more flavor).
If you have arthritis or a physical disability, you can:
- Eat plenty of stews, soups and applesauce.
- Eat tender meats or have your meats pureed.
- Have your fruits and vegetables cut into small pieces.
Preventative care for seniors
While not every age-related oral health concern is entirely preventable, many conditions that become more prevalent with age can be avoided. Consider the following tips for preventative care:
- Regular brushing and flossing. This isn’t a tip exclusive to seniors; everyone– regardless of age– should brush a minimum of two times a day with a fluoride toothpaste. Additionally, flossing should occur at least once a day.
- Use an antiseptic mouthwash. Rinsing the mouth with an antiseptic mouthwash once or twice a day can help prevent the growth of disease-causing micro organisms.
- Visit the dentist regularly. Even with top-notch at-home care, our teeth and gums still need professional cleanings and check-ups. Be sure to visit the dentist twice a year so that any potential problems can be spotted and treated before they become more serious oral health concerns.
For more information about dental care for seniors, contact us today. You only get one set of permanent teeth; allow us to help you take care of them. We look forward to hearing from you!
Visit your dentist if you have mouth pain, missing teeth, ill-fitting dentures or bridges, or other oral problems.