A recent Straits Times article on September 2, 2010, announced that the elderly in Singapore are not eating properly and that almost 30% are at moderate or high risk of malnutrition. This information was obtained from a survey conducted by the Health Promotion Board, which found that only 1% of the 421 people surveyed, had a balanced diet.
One of the seniors surveyed revealed that she avoided certain types of food such as vegetables and meat as these were difficult to chew with her dentures.
Problems with Inadequate Nutrition
Inadequate nutrition is a common problem for those with missing teeth as the teeth are important in helping to chew food properly. Not having a full set of teeth often results in compromises being made in food selection, e.g., food that requires more effort to chew or that are harder in texture (usually meat and vegetables) end up being avoided. Softer food that may have a higher sugar and fat content would be more frequently consumed.
Some of the health risks of an unbalanced diet:
- Weight gain i.e., obesity which could lead to a host of health problems including heart disease, diabetes, and increased risk of stroke;
- Malnutrition which results in hair loss, dizziness, and fatigue;
- Inadequate protein intake over the long term could result in the loss of muscle mass. The individual would thus become weaker and more prone to falls, or be bedridden;
- Osteoporosis which will result in the bones being weaker and increased risk of fractures
Other problems with Tooth Loss
Tooth loss and the resulting deterioration of the jaw bone also leads to less support for the lips and cheeks, thus giving rise to a sunken or ‘aged’ appearance.
Surveys have shown that individuals with ill-fitting dentures tend to have poor self esteem and also tend to have a less active social life.
Solutions for Missing Teeth
Some solutions for missing teeth, which not only enhances one’s appearance but also significantly improves the eating and speech functions include:
With a greying population, the number of people with tooth loss will definitely increase. There is a need for greater awareness in the prevention of tooth loss.
Individuals can still maintain an active and meaningful lifestyle, without compromising their social, psychological and nutritional needs – just ensure that your dentist is a key part of your health team, and visit your dentist twice a year to maintain your oral health.