Oral Health and Malnutrition

Any health issue that affects your entire body, such as diabetes or HIV, also affects your oral health. While not as commonly discussed as diabetes or HIV, malnutrition can also affect your oral and overall health. When you aren’t getting the right foods in your system, your teeth begin to weaken. And, if you already have poor oral health, eating may be difficult.

There are many reasons for malnutrition, but you and your doctor and dentist can work together to create a plan for your improved oral health and nutrition. If you believe you may be malnourished or if you already have oral problems, keep reading to learn more.

What is Malnutrition?

Malnutrition is a complex condition defined as a lack of proper nutrients that leads to a change in body composition and functional decline. Contributors can be non-medical (i.e., social) or medical in nature and are often synergistic or bidirectional. Some of these contributors include transportation barriers, food insecurity, poverty, social isolation, chronic conditions, medications, frailty, depression, impaired swallowing, and poor oral health.

Discover the Reasons for Your Malnutrition

First, determine why you may be malnourished. If it’s because you just aren’t eating enough or the right types of foods, change your eating habits. Of course, there are many other reasons you may be malnourished that aren’t as easy to fix. Some health problems make it difficult to eat because you may feel nauseated or lose your taste.

People with disabilities and who have a lower income may not be able to afford as many healthy foods, which are usually more expensive.

People who are bulimic or have another condition that causes frequent vomiting may not be getting all the nutrients they need. Similarly, alcoholism and depression can cause a loss of appetite which leads to a decreased nutritional intake. Whatever the reason for your malnutrition, fixing the underlying cause is important to your overall health and can likely be helped by changing habits, talking to your doctor, or asking for help from a loved one.

Learn How Malnutrition Affects Oral Health

Malnutrition affects every part of the body, but some of the first oral symptoms include swollen and bleeding gums. At this point, the damage is reversible, if you simply start getting enough nutrients and minerals in your body.

If left untreated, however, the irritation can cause gums to recede from teeth or become inflamed, leading to gum disease. Again, at this stage, it is still reversible, but once minor gum disease advances to periodontitis and attacks the jawbone, symptoms can only be treated with invasive dental procedures such as bone grafts.

Your bones need lots of minerals to stay strong. In particular calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D help strengthen enamel, which is what protects your teeth from decay. As the enamel continues to thin, the underlying later of dentin becomes exposed to decay.

Your mouth is the gateway for micronutrients to enter the body

The mouth is essentially the gateway for essential micronutrients (vitamins/minerals) to enter the body via a meal.

You need to chew and masticate your meal effectively, in order to prepare these  essential micronutrients for proper digestion and absorption into your body. Once absorbed, these nutrients go on to help maintain and protect the health of your teeth and gums so they continue to function normally.

Good oral health is strongly linked to good nutrition. However, if you’re malnourished and experiencing oral health issues at the same time, then you may experience a cascade of multiple health complications.





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