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The Link Between Tooth Loss and Malnutrition

There are many older adults who can relate to this: “I don’t understand. I brush my teeth, I clean my tongue every day, I floss, I drink lots of water…why have I lost some of my teeth? And some more of them are loose? What in the world is going on? After all, I don’t smoke! I don’t get it 🙁

 The Mouth is the Entry to the Body

Since everything we eat or drink enters through the mouth, when there is insufficient nutrition, oral components are often the key to the diagnosis of malnutrition. A recent study at Rutgers University showed that of 107 patients treated at the School of Dentistry, 25% were at risk for malnutrition. Those patients with only 10 to 19 teeth were at a higher risk for being malnourished, as further supported by weight loss, increased evidence of dementia and depression as compared to better nourished patients.

 Aging and Diet

Many senior citizens lack the drive, motivation, or willingness to food shop and/or cook. They thrive on frozen food, or fast food, without the proper, healthy nutrients that they need. Many live in communities where it may be tiring to get down to the dining room, or where proper attention to balanced, healthy meals is lacking. Of course, this link does not apply exclusively to the aging. It can be an eye opener for health practitioners when they see any patients with abnormal or otherwise unexplained tooth loss.

It Works Both WaysI

As much as a poor diet can cause tooth loss, tooth loss can cause the patient to be unable to consume solid or liquid nutrition without problems. Sensitivity to cold or hot, inability to chew, pain while eating or drinking all contribute to poor nutrition. There is almost a symbiotic relationship where nutrition and dentition are incontrovertibly linked.

There’s Good News, Though!

Since tooth loss can be both a result and a cause of malnutrition, the vigilant dentist can take the opportunity to guide his or her patient to a qualified dietitian, nutritionist or, perhaps, there are indications that a consultation with a physician is warranted. While the tooth loss may be irreversible, the malnutrition can certainly be addressed!👍🏼



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