Tooth Loss, Gum Disease and Digestive Disorders
To date, the most significant relationship between dental disease and digestive disorders is from tooth loss. The edentulous (without teeth) patient who doesn'tt wear dentures is the most vulnerable to digestive and other related problems. Studies show that changes in food preferences and subsequent nutrient deficiencies are associated with tooth loss. One study provided a sound basis for why the denture wearer does not receive the necessary breakdown of food substances. The research indicated that the chewing efficiency of those wearing dentures was about one-sixth that of a person with natural teeth. In addition, evidence suggests that nutritional deficiencies, regardless of their cause, are associated with impaired immune responses.
Another study showed that those with dentures are also subject to numerous health problems, directly related to their inability to properly chew their food. This study concluded that most of the subjects showed a low chewing performance classification. These subjects took more medication for gastrointestinal disorders than those with a higher chewing performance. Poor chewing was also associated with a decrease in vitamin A and fiber intake, which was mainly the result of lower intakes of fruits and vegetables. This condition seemed more likely to affect women in the study. In the edentulous person with a low chewing performance, reduced consumption of harder to chew fiber-rich foods could provoke a number of gastrointestinal disturbances.
Relationship of Tooth Loss to Cancer and Heart Disease
In another important study, researchers collected dietary intake data about the food and nutrient intake of 49,501 male health professionals. The results showed that edentulous participants consumed fewer vegetables and less fiber and carotene, and consumed more cholesterol, saturated fat, and calories than participants with 25 or more teeth. They concluded that these factors could increase the risks of cancer and cardiovascular (heart) disease.
I would again like to point out that the vast majority of tooth loss is caused by dental disease, either decay or periodontal disease. It is true that once the teeth have been removed, periodontal disease, and its resultant infection will have been eliminated. This of course is the good news, but as the above studies point out, the problems facing edentulous individuals do not end with the elimination of periodontal infection. In fact, they face an entirely new set of health problems.