Eating is one of life’s great enjoyments, yet those suffering from tooth loss can feel they have lost this pleasure forever. Help is at hand.
We recently looked at the problems associated with tooth loss and the inability to chew, but what is the actual day-to-day experience like when eating becomes a problem? How does it affect a person’s life? It’s so easy to take for granted something most of us do almost without thinking, but when you hear stories from patients who haven’t been able to eat properly for a long time, their experiences can be quite shocking.
So let’s focus in specifically on problems around eating and how poor oral health, particularly loss of teeth, can have a negative effect on so many aspects of a person’s eating habits. And don’t worry, it won’t be depressing, as we’ll also look at what you can do so you’re back enjoying your food as fast as possible.
Let’s start with a case study. Mike J. was suffering from tooth loss. With missing teeth and poor overall oral health, he complained of constantly having a foul taste in his mouth. It wasn’t something that would go away after using mouthwash and had become a permanent fixture in his life, meaning he wasn’t able to enjoy eating at all. When it did come time to eat, he was extremely nervous because he knew his few remaining teeth might break at any time. This is enough to make anyone anxious, but when it’s connected to something we must do for survival – well, the problem is only increased. Finally, when he did eat he wasn’t able to chew properly which limited the kinds of foods he could include in his diet so steak or in fact any hard-to-chew choices became impossible.
The issues Mike J. was struggling with are all too common. Apart from feeling embarrassed when eating in front of others, the frustration at not being able to eat what you want, and missing the pleasure of taste, it can also have an impact on overall health.
When you have lost your sense of taste, or when the foul taste in your mouth is clouding your perception of taste, you may not be able to distinguish how much sugar is in a particular food, or indeed the amount of salt. The former is a problem for anyone who is diabetic and the latter for a person trying to keep to a low-sodium diet. In fact it is an issue for anyone who either needs to (or simply likes to) keep an eye on what they are consuming on a daily basis.
Of course once we are starting to avoid certain foodstuffs, we are no longer getting the right nutritional balance. Many vegetables would fall into the hard-to-chew category as well as some fruits and meat. This drastically cuts down what a person can eat, and it’s very easy to find yourself no longer keeping to a balanced diet. There are other important factors too, such as dehydration. If you have a permanent foul taste in your mouth, even drinking a glass of water is a highly unpleasant experience. And we naturally tend to shy away from things we don’t like, perhaps without even realising, so suddenly our water intake drops and we can become dehydrated.
Dentures – part of the problem
There can be many contributing factors to a loss of taste, and while not all of them are related to oral health, those that do fall within it might include gum disease, inflammation or infection in the mouth, and of course dentures.
The first problem is that dentures tend to be bulky and cover a large area of the mouth, particularly the palate. This obstruction of the palate can reduce the sense of taste in the person wearing them. So although the patient may think dentures are helping with chewing (which they are only to a very limited extent) they are also in fact causing more problems with taste. These problems may include a bacteria build-up around the dentures which can create an unpleasant taste, or the artificial taste of some adhesives used to fix them in place.
Regaining normal taste
This is where dental implants have revolutionised eating for those suffering from tooth loss. With dental implants, the patient is able to chew any of the foods they would normally have eaten with their original teeth. Of equal importance, they can once again experience the full range of tastes. And the fact that in most cases this treatment can be achieved in a single day means that getting back to normal eating habits has never been easier for those suffering from tooth loss.
As for worrying about eating in front of others, having to chew on one side of the mouth, or feeling anxious that dentures might come loose or need adjusting at any point – all of this is gone. Implants feel and function just like normal teeth.
Eating is a pleasure, but it’s also a necessity. And enjoying a balanced diet, being aware of the levels of sugar and salt in our food choices, as well as ensuring we drink plenty of water – these are all vital for our overall well-being. With dental implants these are no longer compromised because the patient isn’t even giving them a second thought. They are simply eating and drinking as normal.
About the author:
D.M.D. summa cum laude
Cert. Prosthodontics (TUFTS, U.S.A.)
Dr. Petros is co-director of the Branemark Osseointegration Center Dubai. He qualified as a dentist in 1995, receiving his dental degree summa cum laude from Semmelweis University in Budapest. He graduated at the top of his class and was also chosen as valedictorian. In 1998 he completed the three-year, full-time postgraduate specialist prosthodontist training at Tufts University in Boston, United States, where he was awarded the Postgraduate Prosthodontist Certificate. Since 1999 Dr. Petros has been working in private practice as a specialist prosthodontist, almost exclusively on the prosthodontic rehabilitation of dental implants. He lectures extensively on same day implants and teeth reconstruction protocols. Together with Dr. Costa(Cert. Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery), Dr. Petros is the cofounder of SameDay Dental Implants Clinic located in Building 39 in Dubai Healthcare City in the United Arab Emirates.