Many seniors have a tendency to have somewhat of a “dry mouth” – meaning they have less than the normal amount of saliva present. This can be due to not drinking enough water and also because many medications have this as a side effect. This is bad for dental and gum health because saliva helps break down food consumed and a lack of it promotes tooth and gum damage. Therefore, seniors must be diligent to drink plenty of water and to brush and floss regularly. Also, many seniors have some sort of dentures, which requires a somewhat restricted diet. Below are listed foods that can damage teeth and gums of all seniors and for those that wear dentures or are missing teeth.
Keeping a concentrated amount of sugar in your mouth for a prolonged time is very bad for your teeth. So things like lollipops, sucking candy and gum are big no-no’s. A somewhat better alternative is sugarless gum, but not so great if you have dentures, crowns, etc. Sticky kinds of candy like caramel are also very bad. An alternative to regular candy is to eat dark (over 75% cocoa content) chocolate. It not only has much less sugar content, it also usually is more easily cleaned away with brushing. Plus, dark chocolate has been shown to have some positive health benefits.
The typical snack foods are both crunchy and starchy – things like chips and pretzels. These are bad for your teeth and gums because they can damage weakened teeth and they leave a starchy residue between your teeth and on your gums. Without quick and thorough brushing and flossing, this will lead to tooth decay and plaque build up. In addition to all of that, almost all of these snack foods are fattening and definitely bad for your blood sugar level. Another thing to avoid is chewing and crunching ice. If you have that habit, then prechill your beverage and skip the ice.
Sorry, the “real thing” and similar soft drinks are really bad for your teeth. They are loaded with sugar and definitely promote tooth decay. In addition, they are absolutely awful for your blood sugar level. Plus, most soft drinks – including the diet ones, have phosphoric and citric acids that wear away tooth enamel. A good alternative is to drink plain unsweetened seltzer (soda water) flavored with a nice herbal tea.
As healthy as they may be otherwise, citrus fruits and drinks contain a high concentration of citric acid. This acid promotes tooth decay and damage and can also cause or worsen bleeding gums and mouth sores. You should try to limit your consumption of these foods and drinks and when you do have them, also drink plenty of water.
Unfortunately, coffee and regular tea are also in the category of acidic drinks. This is true even if they are decaffeinated. If you must have your coffee, avoid adding sugar and have it with plenty of milk, not black. A very good beverage alternative are herbal teas, both hot and cold.
Dentists recommend staying away from the following foods that can hurt the gums or lead to denture breakage:
– Nuts and Seeds: It requires far too much force to crack a nut with the teeth, which can irritate the gums. Most people chew nuts on their molars, and the pressure on just one side of the mouth can cause the dentures to pop out of place, crack and even fall out. Tiny seeds, on the other hand, can cause irritation in the gums if they get caught between the denture and the gums and cause or worsen sores.
– Hard Fruits and Vegetables: Just like nuts, hard fruits and vegetables require a lot of force to bite into. This can ruin the dentures by biting into things like apples, carrots, celery, corn on the cob and coconut.
– Sticky Food: Foods like peanut butter, taffy, chewing gum, fruit paste, and caramel can be very difficult to remove from the surface of the dentures. Plus, these sticky substances can pull the dentures out of place.
– Stringy or Chewy Meat: Seniors with dentures should avoid any tough, grilled steak; chewy pork chops; barbecue ribs; and similar cuts of meat that will be a challenge to eat.