Senior oral health is vital because it’s directly connected to overall health. Gum disease or other oral conditions in older adults often lead to:

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Pneumonia
  • Diabetes
  • Back, knee, and neck pain
  • Headaches and migraines

Nerves and blood vessels connect teeth and gums to the rest of the body. If you are an older adult who isn’t prioritizing oral health, bacteria can quickly get into the bloodstream and cause infection.

Nutrition and Oral Health in Senior Adults

Poor oral health in seniors often goes hand in hand with poor nutrition. Indeed, when any person neglects nutrition and oral health they experience far-reaching consequences for their quality of life and health.

There is a distinct connection between oral health and diet. Unsurprisingly, poor dental care affects chewing and often leads to unfavorable eating habits.

Seniors with ill-fitting dentures have a reduced ability to chew. As a result, the variety of foods consumed decreases. With this in mind, one study found that tooth loss in seniors resulted in significantly reduced energy intake. Because of this, the senior ingests less protein, fat, fiber, calcium, iron, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin C.

Poor dietary quality, in turn, contributes to an increased risk of chronic disease. Notably, seniors with poor oral health typically use self-management strategies of omitting and modifying foods. According to one study, people who modified foods had better dietary quality than those who simply omitted foods.

Tooth Loss and Malnutrition

Tooth loss increases the risk of malnutrition, contributing to chronic dry mouth. In like manner, it impairs natural protective mechanisms and promotes inflammation leading to tooth decay. Consequently, this increases the risk of chronic diseases such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers.

An unbalanced diet can lead to certain deficiency symptoms, leading to tooth loss.

  • A lack of vitamin C increases the risk of periodontitis and can cause bleeding gums, gum hyperplasia (overgrown gums), and tooth loss. Vitamin B12 deficiency is common in older people, manifesting in the mouth as a smooth, red tongue, inflammation, and burning tongue.
  • A lack of zinc, riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine, folic acid, vitamin A or iron can also lead to changes in the mucous membranes. As a result, inflammation of the corners of the mouth or tongue can have nutritional or infectious causes.
  • For denture wearers, infections caused by fungus or Staphylococcus bacteria are a common cause of cheilitis (lip inflammation) at the corners of the mouth as well as inflammation of the mucous membranes.
  • Numerous studies show an association between insufficient calcium and vitamin D intake with osteoporosis and tooth loss.

I summary, the bottom line is that poor oral care and tooth loss increase the risk of malnutrition and poor health.

Chronic Dry Mouth is a Serious Problem

Older adults often have chronic dry mouth caused by certain medications. However, an adequate salivary flow is essential for protecting the teeth from bacteria and erosion.

As a result, gum disease is one of the chief causes of tooth loss in older adults. Specifically, bacterial plaque causes this inflammatory disease of the gums. Plaque calcifies into tartar that cannot be removed on your own.

In the end, gum disease often leads to deterioration of oral health and, ultimately, tooth loss.

Senior Oral Health Guidelines 

Individual hygiene measures are often necessary to maintain oral health in seniors.

Of course, brush your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. In particular, be sure to thoroughly clean the spaces between your teeth and the back of your tongue. In addition, we also recommend a fluoride mouthwash.

The Danville Family Dentistry practice is here for senior patients to support optimal oral health. Call us today at 317-745-4400 to schedule your next visit.

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Disclaimer: The information included in this article is for educational purposes only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.