According to a new French study, the edentulous elderly have an increased risk of micronutrient deficits and insufficient energy intakes.
To determine whether elderly complete denture wearers have a higher risk of malnutrition than fully dentate controls of the same age, members of both groups – 47 respectively 50 men and women with a mean age of 70 years – were asked to keep a 3-day dietary record of all foods and drinks consumed (1). Dietary intakes were then compared with the recommended daily allowance ( RDA). A comparison of the two groups showed that more subjects in the edentulous group (21.3%) risked malnutrition than in the dentate group (0%). Both groups had insufficient energy intakes and deficits in most of the micronutrients with the exception of phosphorus and vitamin B12 in the edentulous subjects and phosphorus, potassium, and the vitamins A, B2 and B12 in the dentate subjects.
The researchers concluded that using conventional dentures increases the risk of malnutrition in the elderly. The finding that the majority of the participants had insufficient intakes of vitamins and minerals (especially calcium) may be due to the modification of food texture in the diet of the elderly and in particular in the diet of complete denture wearers, since it contains fewer raw vegetables and fruits rich in fiber and micronutrients. According to the scientists, lower intakes of micronutrients can increase the risk of infection and the development of cardiovascular and cerebral diseases in those people. Dentists play an important role in detecting and preventing malnutrition, especially when their older patients are becoming edentulous.
Edentulousness increases with age and studies using food questionnaires showed that tooth loss leads to modifications of diet because subjects choose food that is easier to chew. The edentulous elderly avoid many types of micronutrient-rich foods, particularly raw vegetables, because they cannot chew them with their conventional complete dentures. Regarding the oral cavity, multiple factors aside from dental status have an impact on nutrition. Muscular force and the quantity of saliva, for example, decrease with age. Since eating is an important part of social life, eating alone has been described as a risk factor for malnutrition in many studies.