March is National Nutrition Month
According to a 2017 report, people who are fully edentulous (missing all of their teeth) are at risk of experiencing nutrient deficiencies.
What is nutrient deficiency? What contributes to it when it comes to denture wearers? And what can you do to prevent this from happening?
What is nutrient deficiency?
To maintain your health, you need to consume adequate amounts of essential nutrients like iron, B-vitamins, calcium, vitamin D, potassium, magnesium, and Omega-3 fatty acids.
If your diet consistently provides low amounts of any of these nutrients, you may develop a nutrient deficiency.
In addition, as we age, our bodies become less efficient at absorbing nutrients. This may be of particular concern to denture wearers, many of whom are seniors.
If you are nutrient-deficient, you may become prone to various health complications:
- Loss of muscle mass or strength
- Hair loss
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling cold all the time
- Breathing difficulties
- Anemia or fatigue
- Increased risk of fractures
- Bone loss
- Higher risk of complications after surgery
- Lowered immune response, resulting in higher illness susceptibility
Why should denture wearers be concerned about nutrient deficiency?
Digestion begins in the mouth. Our teeth and enzymes in our saliva break down food so that it can be properly digested in the stomach and intestines. If our teeth are ineffective at this job, nutrition deficiency can be the result.
While dentures will improve chewing ability for people who are missing teeth, a denture’s bite force is much weaker than that of natural teeth. Conventional dentures also aren’t as secure as natural teeth, which are anchored in the jawbone.
In addition, some people may wear dentures that are ill-fitting. This can both lessen chewing ability and cause sores in the mouth that make eating painful.
As a result, denture wearers may have a hard time chewing certain nutritious foods, especially ones that are hard, crunchy, or chewy. Raw vegetables, nuts, apples, meats, and even bread can be challenging to eat for denture wearers.
Instead of struggling with nutrient-rich foods they find troublesome, denture wearers may opt instead for easier-to-eat foods that are higher in fat and lower in healthy ingredients. Over time, this can lead to nutrient deficiencies and related health complications.
How can denture wearers enhance nutrient intake?
There are a few things that denture wearers can do to combat nutrient deficiency.
Improve denture fit
In order to consume nutrients essential to maintain your health, you must be able to chew effectively.
Dentures that fit well will enable you to chew more comfortably, which will mean you can eat a wider range of the foods you need for adequate nutrition.
Poorly-fitting dentures can cause decreased levels of saliva and difficulty chewing particular kinds of food.
If you have a loose denture and you begin to avoid foods that can help you maintain a healthy diet, you may become malnourished.
If you find your denture isn’t fitting as well as it used to, schedule an appointment with your denturist to discuss how the situation can be improved.
Prepare foods properly
Nutrient-rich foods like meats, nuts, fruits, and vegetables can be part of a typical diet plan, so long as you prepare them properly.
In general, smaller pieces or bites of food are easier to chew than large bites. Cut apples into slices. Break larger nuts into smaller, easier-to-chew pieces. Cut your grilled steak into smaller bites. The more work you do with fork and knife, the less work your denture will be required to do.
Even the most experienced denture wearers may have times when certain foods pose problems. If this happens to you, try cooking those foods to soften them, rather than eating them raw. For example, if you find root vegetables challenging to eat, make them into soups, steam them, roast them, or purée them.
Some patients may be good candidates for implant-supported dentures.
Dental implants are titanium posts that are surgically anchored in the bone. A denture can then be attached to the implants.
An implant-supported denture can improve denture stability as well as overall bite force and strength. This can go a long way toward providing a more secure and stable foundation for your denture and improving chewing and basic denture functionality.
Consult your healthcare provider
To avoid or improve nutrient deficiency, talk to your doctor or nutritionist about what nutrients you need and how best to get the proper amounts of each.