As we age, there are a number of changes that can occur which may impair our sense of taste and our enjoyment of food. These changes include certain diseases and medications, physical changes in the mouth itself and a number of dental problems as well. Age-related changes in the sense of smell can also have a negative impact on the taste of food.
Some of the physical changes that occur due to aging involve a reduction in the number of taste buds on the surface of the tongue. With fewer taste buds, the foods we eat can seem bland or tasteless. In the nose, aging cells responsible for our sense of smell (Olfactory cells) become replaced more slowly or not at all. Anyone who has ever eaten at an Italian restaurant knows first hand how important the smell of food is and how it enhances the enjoyment of the meal.
The sense of taste and smell can be affected by a number of different diseases and certain nutrition and dental health deficiencies. Some of the disorders affecting taste and smell include Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, chronic liver and kidney disease, and endocrine disorders. In addition, there are hundred of drugs that can affect the sense of taste. Some of these drugs include Capoten®, Lovastatin®, and Vioxx®, to name a few.
There are also dental problems that can affect the sense of taste. Some of these problems include having a dry mouth (sometimes caused by diseases or medications), gum disease, and chronic bad breath. Moreover, removable cosmetic dentures can cause irritation of the mouth that may affect taste, and dentures can also create a physical barrier that decreases the tactile enjoyment of food. There are also toothpastes, mouthwashes, and denture adhesives that may decrease taste sensation for some people.
Fortunately, there are many things that seniors can do to combat these taste-reducing changes. The first thing I recommend is a routine dental exam (at least twice a year) and a professional teeth cleaning. All dental infections (cavities and gum disease) as well as other dental problems should be treated as soon as possible. In addition, the dentist may need to prescribe artificial saliva or mouth moisturizers for dry mouth when appropriate. Seniors should also use a soft-bristled toothbrush to brush their tongues at least twice a day to remove coatings that block their taste buds. To improve the taste of foods, seniors should consider using spices, seasonings, and flavoring agents (e.g. orange or vanilla), but avoid adding salt or sugar.
Remember, only a dentist can diagnose your dental problems and offer the right treatment plan for you. If you need a dentist, call us at 1-866-970-0441 to be connected with one today.