When it comes to the main factors that contribute to malnutrition in old age, people are in for a big surprise. It’s not debilitating illnesses or inadequate access to health care that are causing malnourishment and poor nutrition among the elderly—dental problems and depression are.
A recent News Medical article discusses the results of a study done by a group of medical researchers.
“We were surprised by the levels of malnutrition or risk of it among cognitively intact seniors visiting the ER, and even more surprised that most malnourished patients had never been told they were malnourished,” said lead study author Timothy Platts-Mills, MD, of the University of North Carolina Department of Emergency Medicine in Chapel Hill, N.C. “Depression and dental problems appear to be important contributors, as is difficulty buying groceries. Given that seniors visit ERs more than 20 million times a year in the U.S., emergency physicians have an opportunity to screen and intervene in ways that may be very helpful without being very costly.”
Malnutrition was highest among patients with symptoms of depression (52 percent), those residing in assisted living (50 percent), those with difficulty eating (38 percent) and those reporting difficulty buying groceries (33 percent). Difficulty eating was mostly attributed to denture problems, dental pain or difficulty swallowing.
Dentists in Greenville, SC have long been aware of the health risks that commonly accompany dental problems in the elderly. Ill-fitting dentures not only make the simple act of chewing a struggle, but can make eating a painful experience. Tooth decay and broken teeth are also common in seniors, resulting to aches that make each mealtime torture.
Due to discomfort or excruciating pain when eating, older adults often resort to softer foods or just eat less. Difficulty in chewing certain food and swallowing also lead to skipped meals and opting for easy-to-eat snacks, which are low in nutrients. The decrease in nutritional intake and deviation from a proper diet often produce an array of health problems.
Seniors who are suffering from malnutrition due to critical dental problems should seek the help of an emergency dentist in Greenville, SC. Dental offices, such as Downtown Dental, offer a comprehensive range of treatments that can bring back good oral health in the elderly. With the right dental care, older adults can live a healthy life and enjoy appropriate nutrition.
(Source: Researchers examine why older adults are at risk for malnutrition, News Medical, August 13, 2014)