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Lucy Stock is a columnist for the Irish News

Why Missing Teeth Can Result in Weight Gain

by Lucy Stock BDS DipImpDent RCS (Eng)

Published in the Irish News . 05.09.2012

As the population ages, there are more people living with more missing teeth for longer. People who have missing teeth or dentures often struggle to chew all the foods they wish to eat. A person is likely to eat softer foods and not as wide a variety of foods which in turn affects their nutrition and increases the chances of becoming ill.

People with many missing teeth often complain that they can’t chew vegetables or meats. Others will suffer psychological effects when they avoid socialising and eating out in restaurants. The effect on food choice goes beyond just nutrition and influences lifestyle as well. 

If you can’t chew properly food just isn’t broken down as well. Digestion doesn’t start in the stomach but begins in the mouth. Saliva starts to break down food so when you can’t chew food thoroughly, digestion will not be at its best. The resulting nutritional deficiencies are associated with a weaker immune system.

An unbalanced diet over the long term can lead to a number of health risks. Weight gain is common in particular where soft ‘junk foods’ are chosen instead of the harder to chew fruits, vegetables and lean meats. With weight gain there is an increased risk of diseases such as diabetes, stroke and heart disease.

People with a limited diet tend to eat less protein and this can cause reduced muscle mass. A person may then be more prone to muscle weakness and falls. If foods rich in calcium are avoided, osteoporosis is a concern.

Research shows that a denture wearer can chew one-sixth as well as that of someone with all their natural teeth. Also denture wearers have been shown to take more medication for stomach and intestine problems.

In more extreme cases a person can actually suffer from malnutrition due to tooth loss, even if that they maintain their body weight. Food avoidance can lead to long term problems such as vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Hair loss, dizziness and fatigue can all be symptoms of malnutrition.

So replacing teeth that are lost is great for your overall health. For denture wearers it’s important to have a good fitting denture. Dental implants are an option to improve the chewing efficiency of dentures and hugely improve the variety of foods that people can eat. Going out for a meal can once again become a pleasure.