Aging comes with the deterioration of bones, muscles, and one’s dental health. While seniors are at risk of chronic diseases of the mouth and tooth loss, it appears that oral health problems are also some of the top factors that contribute to involuntary weight loss in older adults.
In a study involving a hundred elderly patients, it was found that general oral health problems were the cause of significant weight loss within one year. Moreover, it was revealed that poor dental health had more impact on involuntary weight loss among the elderly than any other factor such as household income, age, or nutrient intake. Apart from eating healthfully and exercising, seniors should make it a point to take care of their teeth to prevent involuntary weight loss or malnutrition.
Dangers of involuntary weight loss among the elderly
Studies have shown that involuntary weight loss among seniors aged 65 and older can lead to gastrointestinal disease, psychiatric conditions, and an increased risk of death. Poor oral health is just one of the reasons why seniors lose weight, but other factors such as medication effects, emotional problems, lack of access to food, and loss of ability to feed oneself can also contribute to significant weight loss. While these factors may be more challenging to tackle, one thing that the elderly can do to prevent this from happening is to take care of their oral health.
Common dental health concerns among seniors
If you’re a senior, one of the things that you may have to deal with is tooth loss. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, 27.27% of seniors over the age of 65 have no remaining teeth. Meanwhile, those who do have teeth have an average of 18.90 remaining teeth. Seniors are also at risk of developing cavities and gum disease, with the latter being linked to other health problems such as heart disease.
You’ll also notice that your teeth look discolored, and you may or may not experience having bad breath due to a dry mouth. This can be caused by taking certain medications, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 400 commonly used medications can contribute to dry mouth. The good news is that there are several things that you can do to prevent these health concerns or manage them if you’re already experiencing them. Here are some tips on how to take care of your teeth and mouth to prevent involuntary weight loss.
Practice good oral hygiene
Seniors should brush and floss their teeth at least twice a day to reduce plaque and prevent periodontal disease. Use a fluoride toothpaste and try using a fluoride rinse at least once a day.
Increase oral hydration
To prevent bad breath, seniors should ask their doctor if their medication can be switched for one that doesn’t cause dry mouth. You should also drink plenty of water and try chewing sugar-free gum. You may also want to decrease your alcohol intake or avoid it altogether as alcohol can dehydrate your body, and it also a risk factor for oral and throat cancers.
Avoid consuming food or beverages that stain the teeth
Some of these include red wine, soda, tea, coffee, candy, and sweets. Instead, eat cheese, which increases saliva in the mouth to keep it hydrated. Seniors can also have yogurt, apples, leafy greens, and celery, which are all good for dental health.
Visit your dentist on a regular basis
It’s crucial to visit your dentist no matter if you’re wearing dentures or if you still have a complete set of natural teeth. Having regular professional care will help to maintain the health of your teeth and mouth, and your dentist can also ensure that your dentures fit properly at all times.
Follow these tips to take care of your oral health to prevent involuntary weight loss. Having healthy teeth can lead to better overall health and a good quality of life in your golden years.
(Article by Sally Phillips)