“This may be due to the fact that it is difficult to chew when you don’t have many teeth left. Difficulty in chewing also means that food remains in the mouth for a longer time, which also increases the risk of tooth decay, leading to an increased risk of losing even more teeth,” explains dentist Torgny Alstad, author of the thesis.
The more teeth, the better the eating habits
Carbohydrates were the food nutrients that mainly appeared to be associated with the number of remaining teeth. Fructose, dextrose and fibre intake were linked to the number of teeth because of the greater intake of fruit and vegetables. In contrast to these types of sugar, the intake of ordinary sugar and lactose was greater in those with fewer teeth because they ate more cake and biscuits and drank more milk.
“Since we in Sweden do not eat enough fruit and vegetables, and tend to eat too much ordinary sugar and confectionery, it is interesting to note that the number of teeth and the eating habits of the elderly are so closely linked. In other words, the greater the number of teeth possessed by the elderly, the better their eating habits. Although the intake of lactose was higher in those with fewer teeth, it was only ordinary sugar that was associated with the number of dental cavities,” says Torgny Alstad.
The link between dental status and disease
This thesis highlights the fact that several dietary factors that are affected by dental status are also associated with other diseases and ageing. Losing your teeth increases the risk of developing bad eating habits, which then contribute to premature ageing. But losing teeth also increases the risk of losing even more to dental caries.
“Retaining your teeth, or restoring them, is therefore important not just for the teeth themselves but also for the rest of the body. It is therefore important for the dental services, as well as for health services in general, that methods are developed to identify and help those that have eating problems caused by poor teeth,” says Torgny Alstad.