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Food for Thought: The Relationship Between Oral Health and Nutrition

Course Number: 583

Older Adults

Elderly individuals have unique nutritional concerns, especially as life expectancy continues to increase. Depending on genetics and the ability to resist disease, our bodies age at different rates. Good nutrition can make a significant difference in keeping the body free from disease and the dentition intact.

Oral complications for older adults can cause dietary constraints by making chewing difficult and food less enjoyable. Even with advancements in dentistry, like implant therapy, patients still present with missing and mobile teeth due to neglect. Denture patients may have difficulty chewing efficiently and consume less fibrous type foods and animal protein. Over 25% of older adults have xerostomia, a condition of dry mouth, limiting chewing and speech.23 Xerostomia is not a disease, but may be a symptom of various medical conditions, radiation treatment, or medications. Many prescription and OTC medications cause dry mouth including antihistamines, decongestants, hypertensives and antidepressants. Patients with xerostomia are at increased risk of dental caries and halitosis.

The Blue Zone, the highest concentration of centenarians in the world, has been studied by researchers to determine if unique lifestyle habits support longevity. The five Blue zones are in Italy, Greece, Japan, Costa Rica, and the United States. They have identified nine common characteristics of older adults living past 100 years of age.19

Reverse Engineering Longevity

Figure 13. Reverse Engineering Longevity.19

The USDA MyPlate below offers additional advice for the older adults. Additional highlights include making half you plate fruits and vegetables, choose low-fat dairy or lactose free milk, and vary your protein options.10

MyPlate for Older Adults

Figure 14. MyPlate for Older Adults.10