Our ever growing population is aging and the number of adults over the age of 65 is increasing each year. According to the CDC, by the year 2050, older Americans will make up 48 million of the United States population.
A Link Between Malnutrition and Oral Health
New research by the University of North Carolina’s School of Medicine has found increased evidence of a link between malnutrition and oral health in the elderly. The study also noted the role food scarcity plays in the malnutrition of older adults along with side effects of medication, depression, social isolation and limited mobility.
The study found that patients were three times more likely to experience malnutrition if dental issues were present. Dental problems can make it difficult to eat for many reasons according to Dr. Ken Collins, DDS, a leading cosmetic dentist in Spokane, Washington.
“The health and number of teeth each patient has to work with plays a vital role in chewing, especially among the elderly,” he said. “If it’s painful or difficult to eat because of poor oral health, eating can quickly lose its appeal. The first and foremost source of nutrients and vitamins should come from food and chewing is vital to maintaining jaw bone health.”
Fluoride in Water
Today’s elderly did not grow up with the widespread public water fluoridation measures that we see today. Although the first city began offering fluoridated tap water in 1945, it wasn’t until 1992 that around 60 percent of America’s population had access to water with fluoride and by 2008, 72 percent of the population.
“Drinking water with fluoride has been backed by scientific research to help prevent tooth decay by 25 percent,” said Collins. “In fact, the CDC considers the fluoridation of public water to be one of the greatest public health initiatives of the century.”
According to the American Dental Association, one of the most important benefits of fluoride are systemic and occur before the teeth break through the gums in infants. The fluoride enters the system and strengthens the tooth enamel which is the protective, outer layer of each tooth that keeps it safe from tooth decay.
Oral Health Care for the Elderly
While we can’t go back in time to prevent decay in the teeth of older Americans, we can look to the future for ways to improve oral health and in turn quality of life. Close to 25 percent of adults aged 60 and older have no remaining teeth, referred to as edentulism.
“Edentulism is typically caused by poor oral hygiene, gum disease or a combination of the two,” said Collins. “Although removable dentures are often the first choice, they’re usually not the best choice. Permanent dental implants can greatly increase the patients’ quality of life so that they can eat and speak comfortably again.”
Although implants aren’t always an option for everyone due to health care costs, dental insurance and even bone health, there are some ways Collins recommends to maintain your oral health as you age:
Or office in Spokane is located at:
3151 E. 28th Ave.
Spokane, WA 99223
Office phone # 509-368-7788